With the heart warming news that the Lockout negotiations are extraordinarily poorly, your ol’ pal Wanye decided to go to a place where rage and danger are the norm. A place where most people rightfully fear to tread. When there is nothing left to live for you have nothing left to lose.
Time to take in a home game of the Oakland Raiders.
THE SET UP
By no means are we the biggest fan of the NFL. We don’t play fantasy football, we don’t bet on games. We can’t name more than a handful of NFL players currently in the league. But even we have heard about the circus that is a Raiders game and the posse of toughs that call themselves Raiders Nation.
"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."
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."
"But really how bad can it be" we figured. "Certainly there are police there and security folks and nice families with children present. Perhaps it has all been blown out of proportion. There is only one way to tell and that is to get to steppin’ and go to the game against the Broncos."
WALKING UP AND WALKING IN
Boarding the BART train in San Fran takes you all around the bay into Oakland. You get a good look at everything from the elevated subway line and at first glance the cities seem very similar.
San Francisco has a lot of old buildings and warehouses. Oakland does too.
Of course San Francisco’s warehouses are filled with tech startups, life sciences companies and fancy little shops charging $500 for an old picture frame. Oaklands warehouses are filled with dust, rusted out machinery and gunfire.
Our kind of place.
As you cross over an elevated walkway into the hilariously sponsor-named O.co Stadium it is clear that this is a place built for toughs, not your upmarket latte drinking, sushi eating sportsfan. It’s all cement and barbed wire. Everyone looks mean, armed and looking for an excuse to start busting caps at one another.
It would seem that the people running the O.co stadium understand this too. Oakland is one of the minority of NFL teams that don’t sell out every night, despite being across the bay from San Francisco and its immense tourism industry.
To keep those hearty souls that dare to visit safe, they make you go through metal detectors and a pat down just to enter the stadium. And it wasn’t one of those "some state bylaw forces us to do this" type procedure either. It was more like a "there is a 50-50 chance you are packing a weapon and we are going to take it away" type screening.
Once scanned, patted down and frowned at by a phalanx of guards, we walked inside and ambled down to our seats that were pretty darn good despite the fact that we spent only $50 to sit in row 12. "Not too shabby" we smugly thought to ourselves as we made the game day purchase on Stubhub.com.
THIS AIN’T NO ESKIMOS GAME
Now most stadiums row 12 costs you a first born child. And most stadiums row 12 is filled with suits and genteel fans of the game. Not Oakland.
One of the things that became apparent very quickly was that there weren’t many of the typical types of people you would see at a sporting event. There were not really many old people for one. Nor were there many children or families present. Everyone looked like they had just come from a Cypress Hill or Easy-E video set. It was a multinational gang bang nation, to say nothing of the people who dressed up like Skeletor in face paint and walked around with plastic swords.
Yes, the entire crowd looked as though they were on the run from their parole officer and their many enemies on the streets. They showed up mad, then the Broncos started playing and they got even madder. The Raiders were 3-9 going into the game and it was very clear that things weren’t going to go their way when Manning engineered a touchdown on the very first play of the game.
THE CROWD IS LOUD
Another interesting thing about Oakland Raiders fans at a home game is that most of them don’t sit down the entire game. Even in the lower bowl it was all about standing. Standing and yelling. Standing and yelling and alternately throwing gang signs at the opposing team and hi-fiving everyone around you at every occasion. At one point the Raiders sacked Manning and the place lost it’s mind. It was like they had just declared an amnesty on all gun charges in the past 20 years people got so happy. And by happy, we mean mad. Just a happy kind of mad. Sort of.
For a place that had more neck tattoos than newspaper subscriptions, it was awesome how well Oakland fans knew their football. And it was even more awesome how they talked about the game. We ended up becoming secret handshaking, knuckles pounding friends with the enormous Latino gentlemen beside us – to the point that they ended up buying us a beer in the second quarter. These guys – like most everyone we could hear – knew the game inside and out. They didn’t expect the Raiders to win the game against the surging Broncos, but they weren’t about to let them off that easy.
Now some NFL fans might yell out "play tighter D!" or "say there defensive end! The coverage on the last play was hardly effective in thwarting the offensive drive." In Oakland it was more like "HEY MANNING I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE HOLMES. IM GONNA CUT YOU WHILE YOU SLEEP" then hi fives all around.
It was glorious.
AND SO IT WENT
It turns out that Peyton Manning is quite the Quarterback. He marched up and down and up the field again, doing whatever he wanted and the Raiders D could do little but drink gatorade and look glum for the 15 seconds they got to sit on the sidelines while the offense tried to get something going. Then it was back out onto the field and more of Manning doing whatever he wanted.
Because the crowd showed up in a foul mood, the poor showing on the field actually did little to dampen their spirits. No one sat down, no one stopped watching the game. They just kept crushing beers and yelling at the field. The stadium experience did little to settle them down. Every other song was reppin’ Oakland some way or other.
From the Ice Cube anthem at the top of this article to Too Short to Snoop Dogg to Metallica. It was every angry jam you could think of to intimidate the opposing team. And it seemed to have an effect on the crowd too. Because mid way through the third quarter this melee of a scrap broke out one section over from us between an old Raiders fan and a young fella.
You can see a picture of the fellow right up there standing at half time with the pony tail. These two started throwing absolute bombs at one another and the fans around them started cheering them on as though the outcome of the game depended on it.
About 10 Oakland PD and an equal number of security guards showed up in a flash. They moved in with the speed and skill of people who had trained for this sort of thing and tried to figure out who was fighting, as the scrap ended as quickly as it had begun.
And did the Raiders fans rat on the fighters among them? Nope.
They all stood around and shrugged and said they didn’t know what had happened. Neither of the fighting parties were sold out. Instead a massive chant of "**** DA POLICE" started in the section and continued until they gave up trying to solve the crime and headed back to the concourse level. Then the two fans hugged it out and the game went on.
The Broncos kicked the stuffing out of the Raiders. Our fellow Raiders fan announced at the end of the game that "Canada is cool man. You are good with me Essay" before we engaged in an incredibly complicated handshake that only one of us understood. We had a few beers. No one got shot. It was awesome and we shall return.
To quote the President of Raiders Nation, the legendary Ice Cube "today was a good day."
Shoutout to my man @EdmontonRaider on the twitters who is a real Raiders fan. We can only hope we did you proud representing even if for a night.