In a 1974 NFL Films production, the recently deceased Steve Sabol wrote an ode to the legendarily iconoclastic Oakland franchise, stating that the "The Autumn Wind is a Raider."
If that is indeed the case, then the scent on that silver-and-black breeze would be would be some mix of smoke from strip steaks on grills, deep-frying turkeys, pigs roasting on spits, and copious plumes of allegedly "medicinal" marijuana (it is California, after all) wafting in from the pregame tailgating going on in the parking lot of the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum.
I’ve been a spectator at 13 NFL Stadiums; this was my first trip to the land of the Black Hole and it was as impressive as it is unique. It has the some of the pageantry more typically associated with college football, but with a harder edge, reflective of the team and its very blue collar fan base, which wholly embraces their image as league-wide mercenaries. Comparitively, Heinz Field tailgating and fans are as strong as anywhere, but this was just ... different. A visitor to the OAC feels as much like an anthropologist happening upon some remote culture as a football fan.
Coming in on the BART train to Oakland from Downtown San Francisco is like leaving an urban Eden for the Thunderdome, trading the iconic hills, idyllic vistas and handsome architecture of one of America’s most beautiful cities for an industrial landscape of massive container ports, gantry cranes and warehouses to get to a rundown stadium in a bleak section of a notoriously hardscrabble town. The double-sided razor wire on the stadium entrances near the train station felt like a prison yard.
But despite the foreboding envirnoment, bad vibes were minimal. This was raucous fun. It was like a Black Sabbath concert, a Día de los Muertos celebration, and Comicon all happening at the same time. When a guy in a full Darth Vader costume is wearing one of the less interesting get-ups you’ve seen that afternoon, you know you’re dealing with a colorful lot.
The Coliseum may also be the only sports venue on the planet where you’ll hear a security guard make the admonition: “If you are wearing a mask, please take it off when passing through the metal detector” and doing so with the nonchalance of a flight attendant giving boarding announcements. It’s also unlikely that you’ll see a full Latin brass, wind and percussion band with fans salsa dancing in many other stadiums.
Despite a less-than-sterling national image, the Raider fans themselves were a gracious and gregarious sort. They were welcoming, but also ready to bust the chops of visiting fans in a mostly friendly manner. In that regard, they were a lot like Steelers fans – of which there were also gaggles (10,000 would be a conservative estimate). Generally speaking, everyone seemed to play well together.
So take a look around at the scene Sunday. You may hate the Raiders, but it was hard not to come away impressed by their fans' passion -- even if it is borderline bizarre.
Shirt of the day.
His other car's plate says: SPIELLNG
His & hers tats. Daddy's girl is a Radiers fan and "Raider Nation" in Chinese.Not to be outdone ...
As they always do everywhere they go, Steelers fans ably represented their team some 2,600 miles from Heinz Field.