Friday, December 02, 2005

The Epicenter of Excellence









I consider it a privilege to belong to a Raider Nation that extends across the country, and around the world. For those who have not yet had the opportunity to attend a home game in Oakland, I present the following picture in words, a narrative of gameday at the Oakland Coliseum through the lens of last Sunday:

You are northbound on Interstate 880, past box stores and warehouses and intermittent suburbia. The morning air is cold and crisp. Just recently, the California coast was enjoying record high temperatures. But last night, the chill ran deep, and it lingers still. The sky is riddled with metallic clouds that shatter the sunlight into a brooding haze. It’s time for Raiders football.

The Coliseum looms as you approach the Hegenberger Road exit. You take the next exit at 66th Avenue (for which the famed mob is named). You continue north along the frontage road, squeezed between 880 and chicken wire fencing until you hit 66th. You turn right, then take an immediate right into the parking lot, which is filling up fast. The smoke of barbecues merges with the autumn haze.

You are in the north lot. Your neighbor to the left is a father playing catch with his son. To your right is a guy grabbing bootleg Raiders tee shirts out of his van. He will soon make the rounds, selling them for ten bucks a pop. The shirts say: Raider Nation - Get a Win or Die Tryin'. You are his first customer.
It’s not too cold, nor too early, for a beer. Down comes your tailgate.

By 11 a.m., the sky has brightened a bit, the temperature has risen slightly. You take a walk. The air is a cacophony of random noise—laughter, music, NFL television and radio broadcasts, and a motorcycle cop hamming it up over his loudspeaker. You hear salsa, rap, heavy metal and The Autumn Wind. Every color is representing in silver and black. Here, diversity isn’t a concept, an agenda or a piece of legislation. It is simply a way of life.

You pass an SUV with a DirectTV dish mounted to a tripod on its roof. The dish is wired into a large flat screen television that is propped in the back of the vehicle. A group of diehards huddles around the picture, rooting for the Titans to crush the 49ers. You pass between the Coliseum and the Arena (home to the NBA's Warriors) toward the south lot. You see a couple and their young child, who is dressed in pajamas and a Darth Vader helmet with a Raiders shield sticker on the side. In the south lot, you run into Greg and Randy of Raider Nation Podcast. In the nearby RV lot, you navigate dozens of rigs decorated to the hilt in Raiders logos, colors and slogans. Here, you find the legendary Raider RV, where AllyOop of RaiderNews.com
and her family enjoy a serious tailgate.

Kickoff is approaching. On your way back to the north entrance, along a median that divides the east and west portions of the north lot, you pass an asphalt dance floor, where Gorilla Rilla is grooving with the ladies. Then, as you enter the stadium, you hear it: Raaaai-Derrrs! Raaaai-Derrrs! It is the impromptu fight song of the Raider Nation, as reliable as sunrise, echoing through the halls of the Coliseum. Everyone in unison: Raaaai-Derrrs! Now you know you are alive.

The halls are jammed but people are cool. You find your section, and enter the stadium. The field unfolds before your eyes, a beautiful velvet of green and black. For some reason, despite its size, the Coliseum feels intimate as you descend toward your seat. You stand where some of the greatest games in history have unfolded, home to some of the greatest players ever. For better or for worse, this game will also go down in history as one of only eight home games during the 2005 regular season. Soon, the Raiderettes sparkle in two parallel lines from the Black Hole toward midfield. The opening gong of AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells” rattles the house. The place goes literally off the hook. You can’t even hear yourself screaming as the Raiders’ starters are introduced.


Even if you are not here, you are here—watching on television from Seattle to New Jersey, or keeping score via the Internet from Italy. This is why you come, win or lose. This is why you belong. This is why you believe. This is the Raider Nation.

13 Comments:

Blogger Doobie said...

Hey, was that a New Jersey reference? Jerzey representin' in the hizzouse!

(wow, that was bad, even by MY standards)

8:13 AM  
Blogger Raider Nilbilly Boy said...

It's an experience like no other. Every time I bring a "first timer" they come away amazed how much fun they had and say "it's not like this with my home team." Patriot Fan, Razorback (SEC) Fan, Jets Fan, Wolverine (Big Ten) Fan, etc... I think I've got a good sample to size to make the unqualified statement that the Raider Nation is first class and the truest to the roots of football. It's about community and having fun.

The honest truth is that everyone wants to be a Raider fan. No matter where you come from or who you've cheered for, there is that little piece of your heart that wants to be a bad boy. There is that secret desire to put on that Silver and Black jersey, it stings a little because they all know how good they'd look in it.

So every time I get the Raider Hater routine, I laugh and know that regardless of the current record or coach … I belong to a Nation that everyone wishes they could be a part of.

9:07 AM  
Anonymous Nick said...

Eloquent, romantic, poetic...A fine piece on an almost undescribable experience. Write on, Raider Take. It's good to know there's someone giving the real story on Raider Nation, and intelligently to boot.

11:34 AM  
Blogger Raider Take said...

Thank you Raider Nilbilly and Nick for extending this take and helping me spread the good news!

11:39 AM  
Blogger SilvernBlackSoul said...

That is a fabulous piece! Thanks for lending your senses to all of RaiderNation...

3:16 PM  
Blogger SilvernBlackSoul said...

Outstanding imagery!
I got chills...

3:21 PM  
Blogger RaiderGreg said...

If I close my eyes and have my wife read your take, I can smell the tailgate and taste the brew.....Absolutely beautiful description of the Raider Nation experience. For all who have, and those who wish they could, this take is the essence of game day. Well Done!

8:50 PM  
Blogger Raider Take said...

Thank you, Raider Greg...That is high praise coming from someone who lives and broadcasts the gameday experience.

11:03 PM  
Blogger NFL Adam said...

Why is it Haters are always labeled as jealous or secretly desirious of being a Raiders fan? I mean seriously.

I have been to many Raiders tailgates (in plain clothes obviously) along with parties in nearly every NFL city. The non-gang banging, non-LA Raiders fans are alright. It obviously means a lot more to you because you are, you know, a Raiders fan. It did not wash with me.

The town with the best looking girls is easily San Diego. Only the Los Angeles Rams came close. The team with the most loyal fans is Arizona. I mean, if you rooted for the Cardinals, you are a hard-core fan. The most arrogant is Cowboys fans. You would have a better chance of getting a beer from Raiders fan while wearing Broncos gear.

The biggest bad boys were the Eagles fans. I saw a dude take a swing at a 12-year old kid in a Redskins jersery. Now those are true bad boys. And no, I never secretly dreamt of being an Iggles fan.

1:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very, very nice. I've never been, but that article made me feel a piece of heaven. Hell, I even got a little misty-eyed when I got to the end with "Hell's Bells," and all. Thanks for the article.

8:20 AM  
Blogger Leighraider said...

Living in the UK the opportunities to be at the games are limited.This piece brought back all the feelings of our first time and how cool it was to finally be there after a long wait.

6:57 AM  
Blogger Raider Take said...

LeighRaider, I am honored and inspired by your feedback. Thank you for making the UK a Raider Nation stronghold.

5:25 PM  
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