Hunter S. Thompson once quoted Raiders fans as being, “Beyond doubt the sleaziest and rudest and most sinister mob of thugs and whackos ever assembled in such numbers under a single 'roof,' so to speak, anywhere in the English-speaking world.”
Being a die-hard Raiders fan myself, I beg to differ.
You see, I am part of the Raider Nation and yes we are the most notorious fans in all of American professional sports. And just like our beloved team, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Our mythic reputation runs deep with stories of how we curse loudly, drink heavily, brawl uncontrollably and generally wreak havoc at every game.
Basically, just like our team behaved on and off the field in the seventies. And yes, deep down we cherish the gritty, outlaw mystique. But make no mistake about it; the devotion of our multiracial, largely blue-collar fans creates a profound sense of community.
One filled with pride that is life changing and will never die.
Years ago, I attended a Raiders game in San Diego.
It was the usual setting, about 40% Raider fans and 60% Charger fans. Inside the stadium you would think it was the other way around because we are always just as loud or louder than Charger fans.
My friend and I were sitting right in the middle of a huge section of Charger fans. They seemed more concerned about drinking wine and eating cheese and crackers than what was happening on the field. All game long we were taunted, ridiculed, laughed at and at the receiving end of flying trash.
And the Chargers were winning the game!
Well, the Raiders scored a TD in the final few minutes and took the lead.
And then the Chargers took the kickoff all the way down the field and were in scoring position. Then, all of a sudden, a woman who was sitting behind me poked me in the back and said, “Ha, ha, ha we’re gonna win, we’re gonna win!”
She looked just like Woody Harrelson’s landlord in Kingpin and sounded like Suzanne Pleshette after an all night drinking binge. She would not stop poking me.
I had had enough.
I looked at my friend, stood up and in front of all the Charger fans I pointed at the woman’s husband and said, “You better put this little bitch on a leash or I am going to kick your ass!” And I sat back down and waited for the onslaught of abuse that was sure to come.
I looked at my friend and still nothing.
I swear, less than a minute later they were both gone. They packed up and left. With all their fans surrounding me, in their house, they bailed. Unbelievable! The best part of the story is the Raiders intercepted a pass and secured the victory.
Why did I tell this story you ask. You're probably thinking, “See, typical Raider fan. They’re all jerks and all they want to do is fight. Blah, blah, blah!” The reason I bring this up is this; In Oakland, that would never happen.
First of all, if a Raider fan or two started throwing trash, other fans would step in to stop it from continuing. It’s not cool. I’ve seen it happen. Second, no Raider fan gives a crap about other teams fans while we are watching the game.
Nothing is more important than the game. And lastly, if another teams fan actually had the balls to do what I did, he would be pummeled for sure. Chewed up, spit out and left for Johnny cleanup’s crew to go out with the other stadium trash. We protect our house. The house of pain!
Raider fans come in all shapes and sizes.
From suburban families to bikers, from police officers to firefighters, from ministers to missionaries, from college professors to kindergartners and all points in between. We are a legion of devoted fans from all around the world that come together on game day.
It does not matter if we are in a sports bar, at a tailgate party or on the couch. We are one. We travel hundreds of miles to see our team. We show up three days before games and party on city streets in anticipation.
Yes, we dress up like its Halloween.
Yes, we paint our faces.
Yes, we line up hours before the stadium gates open up.
Tailgating in Oakland has been compared to Woodstock, an experience like no other. But unlike Woodstock, we are NOT an imagined community. We are alive and well. We are the rowdiest, most notorious fandom in the entire world.
We display an intensely competitive tribalism that embodies the evil, animalistic "monster" threatening much of middle class America. We are from the scary part of town across the tracks gathered to menace the thumb sucking fans accustomed to watered-down, sugar coated, corporate sports experiences.
We are rebellion, we are global, we are loyal and we are tough.
We are real.
In an era that cries out for peace and harmony, we offer chaos and fun. We are not America’s team. We are not the class of the league. We are not fair weather fans. And we definitely are not imagined! Are we a nice bunch of people with a bad reputation or a bunch of outcasts with bad attitudes looking for trouble?
However you decide to stereotype us remember this…we are the Raider Nation and we will kick your ass!