It has often been said, “There are 31 teams in the NFL, and then there are the Oakland Raiders.” Oh, what a true statement! With a team motto of, “Just Win Baby”, and a fanbase with the reputation of being one of, if not, THE rowdiest bunch of NFL fans, attending an Oakland Raider game live is an experience like no other. Despite having a dismal overall record of 56-136 for the last twelve seasons combined, thousands of East Bay residents flock to the arid parking lot of the dilapidated Oakland Coliseum to participate in one of the largest rituals known to man on a Sunday morning: tailgating.
Raider tailgating is an experience in itself. Countless rows of cars are transformed into private parties where “hyphy” beats bump throughout the surrounding areas. The spread is fit for a king as the aromas of steak, tacos, grilled chicken, carne asada, grilled corn, chips, guacamole, chicken wings, and of course unlimited amounts of beer infiltrate your nostrils as you walk by. The automobiles resemble their owners as they too are in full Raiders getup. Flags, bumper stickers, license plate covers, and customized interiors all bear the marking of the pirate in a patch.
Inside the arena is just as fun, as thousands of boisterous fanatics declare their war cry, “RRRRRRAAAAAAAAAIIIDDDEEEERRRRRSSSSS!!!” On this particular game (September 20th, 2015), the 0-1 Oakland Raiders were heavy underdogs against Joe Flacco and the visiting Baltimore Ravens. Although the Ravens came into the game with the same record as the Raiders, many of the 2013 Super Bowl champs still play for the black and purple, which posed a tremendous hurdle for the young and inexperienced Raider team to overcome.
Out of the gate, the Raiders scored on their first possession on a 68 yard bomb from quarterback Derek Carr to rookie wideout Amari Cooper for his first ever career touchdown. The Raider Nation, full of optimism and excitement, went bananas. However, by halftime the score was 20-20 with no team really having full control of the game. With two minutes left in the game and down by 3, second-year captain Carr had his first opportunity to show the world he had superstar material. With poise and composure, Carr marched down the field and connected with Seth Roberts on a 12 yard go-ahead touchdown with 22 seconds left on the clock, putting the Raiders up 37-33 (see video). The moment Roberts crossed the goal line, the Raider faithful erupted in the largest exuberance that the fanbase has experienced in years. The cheer was therapeutic.
Attending an Oakland Raiders game is not for everyone. The language of those in attendance can be crude. The environment will be rough. However, beyond all that there is charm. Charm because the Raiders Nation represents a community. Although not as refined as their neighbors in the West Bay, the Raiders Nation’s passion can never be questioned. There is a true community present at every game. A community that, no matter how horrendous the team, will still say, “Raiders till I die!” It is their resilience and love for the Silver and Black that illustrates that Raider fans are always “Committed to Excellence.”