March 27, 2017 will be remembered as a dark day in Oakland, California. NFL owners approved the Oakland Raiders relocation to Las Vegas with a 31-1 vote. After the vote took place the Oakland Athletics flag flew high above city hall, alone. It was a stark reminder that they soon will be the only professional sports organization left in Oakland. Never has a team encapsulated a city more so than the Raiders. Their departure to Las Vegas marks the end of an era. An era I’m sad to see end, despite the fact that I’m a Kansas City Chiefs fan.
An Ode to Oakland
I am a born and raised Chiefs fan. It just so happened I grew up in northern California, also known as Raider Nation. Wearing my Priest Holmes jersey out in public was just inviting harassment. So naturally, I wore it as much as possible. After all, who doesn’t love getting into debates and reminding Raider fans about JaMarcus Russell. The one real downside of being a Chiefs fan was that it was difficult to see them in person. They only came to Oakland once a year. That’s not even factoring in all the rumors and stories I had heard about what happens at Raider games.
People consider it a daring and brave act to attend a game at the Coliseum. Stories of Raider fans jumping and beating opposing team fans in the parking lot were common. Others would talk about how they had their jersey stolen or ruined by some Raider fan who didn’t like it. I had even heard stories of people getting stabbed and shot outside the stadium. The message was clear if you go to a Raider game your putting your life in your own hands.
As you can imagine when I was given tickets to see the Chiefs play the Raiders in Oakland I was nervous. Big black jackets covered the Chiefs jerseys my friend and I wore as we walked through the B.A.R.T. station in Richmond. Walking into the Coliseum from the B.A.R.T. station is nothing short of intimidating. An elevated walkway with giant barbed wire lined fences on either side paved the way to the giant stadium as Mt. Davis cast a shadow down upon us. It honestly had a rough, hard, almost prison like feel to it. It really fit the whole persona of intimidation, intensity, dedication, and stretching the rules that the Raider Nation had embraced.
Once inside the stadium we took off our coat as people around us shouted and jeered. A chant of “F#$& the Chiefs” broke out. We had some of the costumed fans come up to our seats and stare us down and shout. However, it was all in good fun. We ended up becoming friends with the people sitting around us. I started to feel comfortable. I was starting to think maybe all these horror stories I had heard were just that, stories.
The fans were great. The banter with them was fun and the intensity throughout the game was surprising. Jamaal Charles scored five touchdowns that day, and the stadium was chanting for Terrelle Pryor to come in at quarterback (which one of those is more unbelievable is up for you to decide). Something strange started to happen though. Something that a Chiefs fan should never do. I started to respect the Oakland Raiders and their fan base.
The dedication and passion for a team that had been awful for the better part of a decade, was rather jarring. I think that is why this move hurts even more. Now the Raiders are legitimate contenders. The fans that stuck around during the years of JaMarcus Russell and Matt McGloin are going to be left behind. One of the greatest rivalries in sports will also be.
Kansas City and Oakland’s rivalry runs deep. Lamar Hunt and Al Davis were constantly at odds in the early days of the AFL and NFL. Al Davis fought to keep the AFL and NFL separate, while Lamar Hunt fought to merge the two. However, the two cities themselves have quite a bit of history themselves. The Oakland A’s were originally the Kansas City A’s before moving to Oakland. The Kansas City Royals and the Oakland Raiders shared superstar Bo Jackson. Even just a few years ago the A’s and Royals had benches clear in consecutive games. It is a shame to see such an organic, deeply rooted rivalry tossed aside.
Mark Davis‘ move to Nevada must be heartbreaking for many. Oakland is the place that welcomed them back with open arms despite leaving them for Los Angeles in 1982. It is the home to one of the most famous and hardcore fan bases. The team that personified Oakland will now be playing in Las Vegas. To see that all disappear will hurt the Raider brand as well as their rivalry with the Kansas City Chiefs. It will never be the same. Thank you Oakland, for all the memories. Cheers to you Raider Nation, the best fans in football.