As an Oakland fan, I come under fire for a lot of questionable calls by other NFL Fans.
From Hue Jackson’s ridiculous play-calling against the Dolphins, to Darrius Heyward-Bey being Oakland’s first pick over more capable receivers such as Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin, Percy Harvin and Hakeem Nicks but at the end of Week 13, it became all clear—
It was all worth it.
See, my brother has been an Oakland fan forever, he’s 36 years old and he’s been an influence on my sporting preference.
We share a similar liking to Florida State as well as being a fan of Peyton Manning with the same belief that he’s the best quarterback in the NFL. But it was he who lured me to the ‘dark side’ like Vader did with Luke.
See, I must admit I was never a ‘fan,’ but I had favorite players when I was younger. Deion Sanders was a favorite player, I loved him but never cheered for the Falcons, 49ers or Cowboys.
Being a Seminole fan first and foremost, I was huge on Derrick Brooks and Warrick Dunn so when they were taken by Tampa in the draft within two years (1995 and 1997) I was sold on Tampa.
Plus, I loved Mike Alstott, and at the time I did not have my own NFL Team, as I was drifting, cheering for favorite players over favorite teams; finally, I had a constant team to cheer.
As a loyal Tampa fan from 1995, I went through a lot:
- starting with Tony Dungy being removed from the head coaching job despite putting up winning seasons minus a Super Bowl (which leads to the next point)
- the notorious now known "Bert Emmanuel Rule" in the 1999 NFC Championship game against the Rams which could of gone Tampa's way, putting them in prime position to possibly score
- Keyshawn Johnson (that says enough) and the organization cutting ties with John Lynch and Warren Sapp after the Super Bowl victory. I rolled with the punches as they say, every team has it's "WTF" moments..
I figured they did enough damage to the team in a decade by removing a well respected coach that built the team, signing the cancer known as Keyshawn, allowing the loss of two essential parts of the defense, but that's where I was wrong.
Not only did the head office decide to terminate Gruden like how they ridiculously terminated Tony Dungy (Gruden did have a REALLY bad 4-12 season, but c'mon.. it's Chucky!)...
They cut Derrick Brooks.
I couldn't believe it myself when I saw the news prompt on ESPN. I stared at the ticker on the bottom of the screen. I know when a new coach takes over they want to restructure stuff, but seriously...Derrick Brooks?! Mister Who's Your Favorite Player?!
The leader, the man who helped cement Tampa’s defense as legit over half a decade, they cut him without giving him any notice.
I, as a fan, didn’t appreciate that...nor did I appreciate Jon Gruden being axed...no way. Sure Gruden had a bad season, but they decide to terminate Gruden and promote a cornerback coach?! WHAT?!
At least in Al Davis’ case, he traded Gruden, but Gruden had revenge when he led Tampa to their first Super Bowl victory OVER his last team...but that’s neither here nor there.
When I got news Gruden was fired- then I got hit upside the head with news that Raheem Morris wanted to cut majority of Tampa’s vets for a ‘fresh’ look, I turned my head, I had a sour taste in my mouth that something bad was going to happen.
Warrick Dunn, Derrick Brooks and Cato June (as well as Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard) were gone.
No more would I be able to recognize the team I had supported time and money for merchandise into. It was at that point that I washed my hands of the organization and never looked back.
Then for the first time in almost 15 years, I was back where I started, I had no NFL Team, I was back at square one. One my favorite defensive player (Derrick Brooks) had been cut and my favorite offensive player retired due to a neck injury (Mike Alstott).
I realized though that there was a light at the end of the tunnel, it wasn't going to be an easy ride, I would have to talk to my brother, an unofficial ambassador for Hawaii's Charter of The Raider Nation, and tell him something I thought would never come to light..
I want in; I want to join The Raider Nation, full-time, go all in.
Honestly, I always had a soft-spot in my heart for Oakland despite hiding it from my older brother or else he’d had persuaded me to join The Raider Nation full-time, I knew what my destiny was- I understood that my plan was..
A blood transfusion from Pewter and Red to Bleeding Silver and Black.
So I joined The Raider Nation with full support of my brother, forgiving me of my past sins of being associated with Tampa, and thus I went, starting my first season as an Oakland Raider fan, first game of the 2009 season?
Against my sister’s Dallas Cowboys, a preseason game, nevertheless a game.
We dropped the next three and ended the preseason 1-3.. It’s just the preseason after all.
Then the regular season started and oh my- how I was hyped. A fresh start, a whole new look and different way to approach the NFL.
Since 1995, I had cheered and supported Tampa, I had been through thick and thin.. from the revolving door at QB with Trent Dilfer.. Shaun King.. Brad Johnson.. Shaun King again- Rob Johnson to Chris Simms then Jeff Garcia, and I survived it.
I fought as long as I could, but everyone needs a new start sometime, Gannon got it in Oakland—Seymour got it Oakland and me? I got it in Oakland, and I have got to say I’ve enjoyed every second of it.
I went through JaMarcus overthrowing DHB and Louis Murphy- I went through McFadden getting 8 touches a game, I went through the Oakland defense being torched every week but I have never once questioned my loyalty as a Raider Fan, I refused to give up support of Oakland.
I made a commitment to excellence and myself that I would for now until the time I die be a Raider Fan, and it’s all due in part to my brother.
He influenced it, just like he influenced me to be a major FSU fan back when I was young—and over the years he was breaking me down.
From making me play as Oakland in Madden—to buying me my first Tim Brown jersey when I turned 10 saying it was a ‘landmark moment’ for me, can't forget about lecturing me on how much of a beast Napoleon Kaufman is—he broke me down, and he eventually turned me to the dark side, but it’s a choice I don’t regret.
This year it’s been an up and down journey thus far but definitely it has been great to be an Oakland fan for me, I’ve watched football since I can remember, and being an Oakland fan despite the TV blackouts means I have to make an effort to watch the games, win or lose.
Watching RUN DMC finally break out—watching yet another fourth-round pick WR break out, I love it. Watching Nnamdi shut down his side of the field—watching Jason Campbell, just like me get his fresh start and actually look good despite some moments, I love it and will continue to do so because that’s what fans do.
I never gave up on Tampa, but I gave up on The Glazers and Morris, I wish Tampa the best as I can see they’re doing good with a new look, a whole fresh setup: good. Kudos to them.
But this fan’s money is going to be spent on Oakland merchandise; this fan’s support is going to Oakland.
This fan’s heart has been in Oakland, and all it took was an older brother to show him that, accepting him into The Raider Nation, giving him his fresh start.
Just Win Baby...or in my case, Two Years and Until the End of Time to Go Baby!