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.