The scene is Oakland Alameda Coliseum on a Sunday in late autumn. The afternoon heat gives way to the cool Bay breeze blustering into the stadium. The Raiders have just completed a late rally that locked up the game in their favor. The stadium operator cues up a rap song with a heavy bassline that gets the entire building to sway, sans the opponent’s sideline. The operator only plays this song when the game’s in hand.
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Deeerrrrr, boom boom. YEAH. Boom, boom (YEAH) boom boom, Deeerrrrr…OAK-TOWN! Do you know about my city? OAK-TOWN!
MC Hammer’s “Oaktown” blares and booms across the Coliseum’s sound system. It’s the Raider anthem of all Raider anthems. Oakland natives stake claim to it, but so does all of Raider Nation unless they’ve never been to a home game.
It’s my absolute favorite Raider game experience. Once they move to Las Vegas, there will be no more use for it. And I will miss it dearly.
In 1989 at the age of 10, I began watching the Los Angeles Raiders on my own accord. I collected baseball cards, and knew who wore #16 for the Kansas City Royals. I also heard that man played for the Raiders. All I had to do was tune into NBC Sports every Sunday and watch him play football the way I did when I watched him blast a lead-off homer to the covered bleachers in dead centerfield of Anaheim Stadium during the MLB All-Star game the previous summer. Then, something else happened. I started learning the other players’ names. Mervyn Fernandez. Willie Gault. Steve Beuerlein. Marcus Allen. Terry McDaniel. Head coach Art Shell. I also learned I absolutely loved that team: colors, logo and all. I knew they were for me.
As fate would have it, Bo Jackson wouldn’t play football beyond the 1990 season. Tim Brown came back from his injury, and the rest is history. To this day, I am an uncontested loyal member of THE Raider Nation. I am also a Las Vegas native, born & raised.
Over the course of my 28 years of fandom, besides the myriad of losing seasons endured, I’ve been privy to the nomad ways of the franchise. The Raiders move. It’s what they do. I have affection for the Bay Area, particularly Oakland. What I don’t have affection for is the group of Oaklanders who call themselves “Forever Oakland,” also known as “Stay in Oakland.” They’ve slandered my home town, fellow Raider Nation members, and ownership. They’re spreading long-winded hogwash about the constructs of the Las Vegas stadium deal. Mr. Davis has done a fantastic job taking the high road and letting that group of people verbally rape him. I’m here to say the baloney needs to stop.
Just like them, I take pride in my city and take it personal when people spread untruths about it. I also cringe at the adolescent, cliquish attitude they’ve shown toward the rest of the fanbase. Raider Nation is global, and let me tell you, they far outnumber the Oakland Natives who oppose the rest of them. Heck, Los Angeles Raider fans may outnumber them alone.
If you’ve flown out of Oakland the evening after a Raider home game, you know the airport is full to the brim with Raider fans. The Coliseum isn’t filled with Oaklanders on game day, not by far. But this little group makes noise like they’re the majority. They’re trying to hijack the team like it belongs to their city.
It’s a case of misdirected hostility.
The pretty gal in heels parading around the mayor’s office didn’t want the Raiders. That is who needs to receive these proverbial pitchforks and torches. I’m not saying the game the NFL plays with American cities is fair, and I’m not saying late great Raiders Founder Al Davis always played fair either, but the NFL and their owners make the rules. If you love an NFL product, you play by those rules to keep your beloved team. I’m not going to rehash all the gory details here.
What I will say, is these so-called fanbase leaders like the one who jumps around the front row of the Black Hole, paints his face and wears jersey number twenty-six could have taken a positive leadership role despite the disappointment of relocation. Instead, “that guy” decided to act like a spoiled child who lost his binky and alienated himself and the others who follow him. His local celebrity has an expiration date, and his ego is crushed because of that. It’s not about the Raiders with them, if it were most wouldn’t threaten to separate with the team once they leave the East Bay. “That guy” should feel shame for the way he carries himself.
They’re right about one thing. It won’t be the same in Las Vegas. It does look and sound weird to put my city’s name beside “Raiders.” But there’s nothing stopping this southbound train. Never in my wildest dreams did I think my city would be home to my team. Fairy tales do come true. If Forever Oakland wants to waste their time and precious money duping people into fundraising for a futile lawsuit, have at it. All the while, those bitter guys could be building bridges instead of torching them, or at the very least being gracious baton passers. They could be gleaming examples of the Raider way. Instead, they chose to be something ugly, the antithesis of the Raider way.
I’ll admit, right now Las Vegas has absolutely no clue how to be a Raider. I know how. But I’m one of a few. We’ll receive backup from the Los Angeles contingent and every other chapter of The Nation. Vegas needs a lesson or two. Who better to instruct them than the originals? Can’t happen if they’re going to act like a bunch of insufferable Cleveland fans.
While Derek Carr, Khalil Mack, Marshawn Lynch and the rest of the 2017 Raiders continue the franchise renaissance in Oakland, the team inches closer to the desert. Like Ricky Jerret in the HBO TV series Ballers, the Raiders asked the City of Oakland ‘where’s the love?’ and Vegas delivered. That’s nobody’s fault but Oakland, who sat in the driver’s seat but instead decided to drive up the Coliseum rent. It remains to be seen just how well speculation on the land beneath Oracle Arena and the Coliseum turns out for the city, whether it was a good idea in the long run to let the Raiders and Warriors relocate.
Forever Oakland, here’s a bit of free advice: Direct your angst appropriately, stop whining about everyone but the responsible party (the politicians who serve you) and enjoy the upcoming season. It should be a very good one for everyone involved with the Silver & Black. We are One Nation, start acting like it. Or, leave your Raider gear at the door, make the crappy drive to Santa Clara and go root for the 49ers.
I’ll say it again. I am going to miss the hell out of hearing “Oaktown” in the Coliseum when the Oakland Raiders put away a football game.
There’s nothing like it, and there never will be anything like it again.