Oakland Raiders fans are the fourth worst fans in American Sports according to GQ Magazine. The article paints Raider fans as, "Hell-raisers, gangbangers, and inveterate knife-lickers all of whom firmly believe that skipping town for an away game is well worth the parole violation."
Raider fans have an image problem and it could be hurting their ticket sales. Just like Raider fans have fans spread across the nation, so do other NFL teams. You'll find a lot of members of the Raider Nation when the Raiders play away games.
Because of the image problem Raider fans have, it may be causing some of the away team's fans to stay away from Oakland when their team plays the Raiders. It also may be causing some members of the Raider Nation who have never been to a game to stay away from Oakland as well.
NFL rules require that games be blacked out in the home TV market when the games fail to sell out 72 hours prior to kickoff. Some teams may get a 24 hour extension to avoid a blackout.
Since returning back to Oakland in 1995, the Raiders have had over 60 percent of their home games blacked out. Compare that to a team like the Buffalo Bills, who have had only two blackouts since 2006. Both teams have struggled to win games, but only the Raiders have struggled to sell out those games.
When I attended my first Raiders game, I had many people warn me about going to the stadium. As a Raider fan, I was confused as to why people were telling me to rethink attending a game in Oakland. I traveled with my wife to the game and her family was a bit worried as well because of the stories they've heard.
My wife was very excited, but being a country girl from Idaho, she was a bit nervous at first. I had a cousin tell me I was better off waiting until the Raiders traveled to Denver.
Was it really that bad that I was better off going to watch my favorite team play at one of their biggest rival's stadium?
Being a lifetime member of the Raider Nation, I made the 13 hour drive to Oakland. I stayed with family in California the night before the game. As we got ready to leave, my uncle told me to be careful because he had heard a lot of bad things about Raider games.
My cousin even offered that I take his knife to the game for protection. I still didn't understand why everyone was so worried.
My first game in Oakland was a great experience and was almost just like any other game. The crowd you see at an Oakland game is very diverse. While you do see a part crowd that looks like they came straight out of the Blood In, Blood Out movie, you also see the regular family crowd that attends games as well.
The experience was one my favorite memories of all time. Sure, the fans may look a little scary with their masks or mean faces on, but everyone made you feel at home. Oakland is where the heart of the Raider Nation lies.
We returned again the next season to watch another game and it was the same fun experience, but I did see things that I would never expect to see at a professional football game. It was the season opener on Monday night against the San Diego Chargers.
A couple directly above me was wearing Charger blue. The regular trash talking commenced from the Raider fans and it started off as playful. Then, as the game progressed, the talking became more threatening.
The husband was trying his best to ignore it, but the wife was visibly scared. It was around the third quarter when it became too much to handle and the couple left. I felt bad for that couple because they had traveled from Arizona to watch the game.
Later on during the game, a guy two seats away from my wife decided to sit down and have a smoke break. It didn't take long to figure out what he was smoking and it wasn't Marlboro Reds. It wasn't too much longer before security had to come in and take care of the situation.
While these situations wouldn't stop me from going to more games, I can see why it would prevent some opposing team's fans, as well as other Raider fans, from attending.
As fans and members of the Raider Nation, we have to do better. This doesn't mean we have to soften up, but it means we have to know there is a line we cannot cross.
It means we have to respect other fans and accept the fact that we need more people to buy tickets, even if it is a Broncos fan or Chargers fan. We need to help our team fill that stadium up and if our own fans aren't willing to buy those tickets, we need other team's fans to do it.
Nobody around Oakland likes it when a game is blacked out. I'm tired of hearing everyone talk about how the Raiders can't sell out games. I'm tired of hearing stories like this that depict us like thugs.
The Raider Nation is one of the best fanbases in the world. Like the franchise and like our owner, we're free spirit rebels that don't always follow the rules, but if we want to start watching the Raiders play on local TV, we do have to start following the simple rules.
If we don't want the Oakland Raiders to make another move to Los Angeles, we need to fill those seats up. Our product on the field will be very improved in 2011 and now it's time fans do their part and improve the support in the seats.
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