You can call it a question of perspective, but after watching the Ice Cube documentary "Straight Outta L.A.", I was left with two feelings.
The first feeling is that if you grew up watching the Los Angeles Raiders and then watched the team leave, you'd be sad. Sure, you had the Silver and Black for over a decade. You got to see a team that at the start could not be beat, but then went on a roller coaster ride from the end of the Flores Era to the Art Shell/Bo Jackson Show. Those were some great times.
Secondly, you have to feel sorry for Ice Cube. He never got to taste what the real Raiders were like, the ones that thrived before the move to L.A. He does mention watching the great 1980 Super Bowl win, but he forgets that the team existed long before L.A. was begging for a club. L.A., for all its fickle fans, lost the Rams first to Anaheim and that set the stage for the Raiders to move.
But it also shows a perspective that gives an inclination on how large of a fanbase the Raiders have in Raider Nation. Some teams pride themselves on only the good years; say, the Tampa Bay Bucs or the New England Patriots. There's a smattering of fans that might remember that Jim Plunkett was a quarterback for them back in the mid 1970s, but most only know of Tom Brady.
For the Raiders fans, there's three different stages, possibly a fourth.
The first stage is made of up of the sages of wisdom. They put their kids to bed with stories of how Jim Otto would stand up an entire defensive line while injured . How Daryle Lamonica would get that look and chuck it 80 yards down the field, just to loosen up. Or about the 1967 season, when the Raiders, backed by Lamonica, Blanda, Biletnikoff, and Otto, won the AFL title.
Glory days, truly.
This stage would witness two Super Bowls, including the 1976 win over the Vikings and as a last treat, the 1980 win over the Eagles. Again, great things.
When the Raiders moved, quite a few fans felt their hearts ripped out. Some would vow to never follow the club again, while others wished that they would simply return.
The second stage of Raiders fans were, at first, fans from afar, watching the Raiders play up north in the Bay Area. Then lo and behold—the Raiders moved to L.A.! Here was a team that showed up, was a proven winner, and could replace the heartache from the Rams' earlier departure.
The Raiders did just that, when they knocked the Redskins around in 1983, making everything rosy, so to speak.
But like everything, there were ups and downs. The Raiders team that had won the Super Bowl was aging, badly injured, and in four seasons would be a shell of its former self. Players who left were replaced by others with questionable talent and skills. Some players just didn't cut it. And of course, behind the scenes, no one knew where Al Davis would move the club to as lawsuits, threats, and deals were a commonplace occurrence.
How do you build a fanbase when you don't know if the team is going to stand still?
But these are rabid fans who love the Silver and Black. Just like the fans who remain loyal in Oakland, and everywhere.
Finally, the Raiders would move. Not to Irwindale, not to Hollywood Park—but back to Oakland.
The third stage of fans discovered quickly that these weren't your father's Raiders. They were led by a various ensemble of coaches, quarterbacks, and gone from the party as Art Shell. As the team struggled through this period of question, the Raiders organization tried to find itself. And for the short time Jon Gruden was coach, they did.
You might say this stage had two parts, as the time with Gruden was a nice oasis of relief from the hard times. Oakland slowly built a team, although made up of veterans that some joked made Oakland the "Bay Area Retirement Community." Jerry Rice, Rod Woodson, Bill Romonowski, Rich Gannon, Tim Brown...the list goes on. The brightest point for this crew actually came the season after Jon Gruden's departure, before ultimately being stunted by the man himself in Super Bowl XXXVII.
The team, crippled by age, injury, and time, fell apart in a hurry.
For the last seven years the Raiders have been suffering from their own actions, hitting bottom in 2006. The Raiders, from 2007 until now, have been slowly working their way back up. Hopefully with JaMarcus Russell's departure, the last step will be taken.
For Ice Cube, the Raiders fans existed long before you started to cheer for them, and will probably be cheering for them long after the music fades. And just for the record—you never had the Raiders.
The fans did....Oakland, L.A., and everywhere.