It’s about hanging with your friends, having fun and mocking the shit out of opposing fans
In 1995 my beloved Raiders moved back to Oakland at approximately the same time Baby Mama and I moved to Concord, about 20 minutes away. My friends Patrick and Jeff were huge Raiders fans as well and we bought four season tickets–paying for the bullshit PSL’s in the process. Sometimes Baby Mama went with us and occasionally we took another friend. It was always a blast.
Home game Sundays were (to me) the best Sundays of the year. We would get up early, pack my Xterra and Patrick’s Toyota Tacoma and head to the Coliseum. The gates opened at 8, but if you wanted to get a nice close spot you needed to get there by 7 or 7:15 and get in line. We were always amongst the first in line at the North parking entrance and always landed in about the same spot–close to the trash and charcoal dumpsters and a short walk to the outhouses.
We had our Sunday morning ritual. Patrick’s family owned a cigar shop that was pretty central to us, so we always met up there, grabbed a couple of stogies for the festivities and picked up a cup of coffee at Starbucks. By 7:05 or 7:10 we were in line and it was pretty much the same people we would see week in and week out. We were communing with our brethern and sistern in silver and black and life was good.
By 8:10 we were usually in our spot and setting up camp. I pulled out the small charcoal BBQ and got it fired up. Patrick grabbed his 17 inch TV and set it in the back of my Xterra and plugged it into the power outlet. After that he pulled out the cooler with the food and set it by me as Jeff grabbed the one with the beverages and set it underneath Patrick’s tailgate. One of them would set up the camping table, we would get our chairs out and within 10 minutes, we were good to go!
We had different things for lunch, but whether it was carne asada, tri tip, Italian sausages, pork tenderloin or BBQ chicken sandwiches, we always had a few items that were mandatory. As soon as the BBQ was ready, we pulled out a bag of pizza rolls and threw them on the grill. That may sound weird, but they are damn tasty when consumed right off the grill. Try it sometime. You won’t be disappointed.
Since I like to cook, I was always responsible for the main dish while Patrick and Jeff picked up the chips, salsa, buns, cheese, etc. We always had an ice cold case of Corona on hand with a baggie full of lime wedges and a chilled bottle of Cabo Wabo tequila and (of course) our Raiders shot glasses. Occasionally I would make some jello shots for dessert.
By the time the Fox NFL pregame was on, we had pizza rolls about ready to come off and were cracking open our first Coronas of the day, The nice thing about living on the west coast is that if we have a home game, its always the late game, which means we can sit in the parking lot and watch the first game before heading in to watch our beloved Raiders.
When we picked our season tickets we had many options to consider; some were no brainers, like where was the sun likely to be during the game? We didn’t want to get blasted in the face. Price was also a major concern. If we got the “really good seats” we would be broke as hell and that wasn’t any fun. Mt. Davis was an option, but climbing those stairs was a daunting task.
[Mt. Davis is the extra seating built when the Raiders came back to Oakland. It was named after the legendary coach and owner of the team, Al Davis. Al Davis is now an old, senile douchebag who should sell the team.]
Those were great days. Our pre-game fun included things like taunting the opponent’s fans as they walked by. Especially fans of the Denver Broncos. We kept the language clean–at least when kids were around–and we never went the “yo momma” or “yo sister” route. Even with the Broncos fans. Usually.
We also listened to tales from the old timers–the guys in their 60’s and 70’s who can regale you with tales of Ken Stabler, George Blanda, Fred Biletnikoff, Todd Christensen and John Madden. Occasionally we even did something nice for an opposing fan, like let them borrow our bottle opener or let them use some lighter fluid. We were cool like that.
Raider fans are a special breed. There are three things you must possess to be a member of the Raider Nation. You have to be hardcore. You have to be passionate. You have to be loyal.
There are a few misconceptions about being a Raider fan. You do NOT need to have a prison record, nor do you need some type of gang affiliation. That was a requirement they abolished when they moved back to Oaktown. The whole “no prison or gang” thing worked out well for Patrick and myself, but I’m not so sure if Jeff was affected by the rule change.
There was one game that stands out in my memory. Not so much for what happened on the field, but for what happened off the field. The Raiders hosted the New York Jets on December 10, 2000. Oaktown won by a score of 31-7. I can’t remember how many yards Rich Gannon threw for, I don’t have a clue how many catches “Touchdown” Timmy Brown had and I’m not sure whether or not Charles Woodson picked off a pass.
What I do know is that one lippy Jets fan got the shit kicked out of him. I mean, GOT THE SHIT kicked out of him! Here’s how it went down: We picked seats in the north end zone, directly across from the infamous Black Hole. The Black Hole is where the most hardcore, brutal, die-hard Raiders fans go. This is where you see costumed fans like Darth Raider and these guys. Basically, when something went down in the Black Hole, we wanted to see it.
This idiot Jets fan was head to toe in Jets gear and was intoxicated (as I assume you would need to be in order to watch the Jets). Dumbass was hammered and decided to walk to the bathroom behind the Black Hole and he was talking shit all the way there. Did I mention the Raiders won that game 31-7, so there wasn’t a whole lot of reason for a Jets fan to be talking shit.
Anyway…Dude walks into the bathroom behind the Black Hole, chirping about how shitty the Raiders are and “fuck you guys”–shit like that. Long story short, someone found him on the bathroom floor beaten up and covered in urine. I’m not saying that as a Raider fan I’m proud of that event. I don’t condone it. I did not participate. I had no knowledge of what was happening until later. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it. But still. If this is how Raiders fans take care of their business, then I don’t think anyone wants to screw with us!
A few weeks later the Raiders hosted the AFC Championship game in January 2001. The tailgating was hardcore that Sunday. Ultra hardcore. The plan was that we were going to be outside the gate at 4 AM that Sunday morning. Plans changed, however, when Jeff saw something on TV that showed about 300 cars already in line at noon on Saturday.
I got a phone call and we coordinated that I would borrow an older delivery van from work and we would gather our supplies, sleeping bags, a clean pair of undies and get in line. When we arrived, around 5 PM, the line was literally halfway down the shoulder of the 66th St off ramp on 880.
That’s where we spent that very, very cold Saturday night. In sleeping bags on the floor of an old delivery van on the shoulder of the off ramp. It was totally fun. It was like one big party and people were hanging out by their cars drinking while some groups would go from car to car, hanging out and BS’ing with whoever was there. In the realm of sports, that is as cool an experience as I have ever had.
On October 8 of 200, the Raiders and the cross-bay rivals the San Francisco Forty Whiners Forty Niners hooked up at Candlestick Park, I don’t care what you legally call it–that will always be Candlestick Park. Tickets for this game were coveted, but for some reason the game was sold out prior to tickets going on sale. Many suspected that the Niners offered their season ticket holders extra seats for this game–thus insuring an abysmal turn out for the visiting team.
This was not cool, but Raider fans are resourceful and we don’t like getting dissed. San Fran made sure we couldn’t get into the game, so we made sure they couldn’t get into their parking lots to tailgate. Parking lots are a premium around Candlestick and in fact many fans have to park off site and take a bus into the stadium. As the sun rose that morning all you could see were cars. We arrived around 5:30 AM and were a good quarter-of-a-mile back. When the gates opened at 8, there was a line a mile long.
The result? By the time the Niner fans got to the stadium it was 95% full of Raider fans who figured that if we couldn’t be inside the stadium why not watch it on TVs out in the parking lot. The fact that in the process we could stick it to the home team’s fans was purely a bonus. Amazingly almost every fan who walked past us into the game was very quiet and polite. They knew better than to mess with The Nation.
Today the Raiders suck ass. Our codeine guzzling, sack of crap quarterback , JaMarcus Russell is out and we’re not as bad as the 49’ers who at 0-5 could possibly run the table and go 0-16 this year.
I live in Buffalo now and as much as I’m not a Bills fan, I do respect how these folks roll. Opening Day of the 2010 season I stopped at Tim Horton’s for some coffee at 8:30 AM and there were 40 people tailgating in the parking lot of a donut shop which is 30 minutes from Ralph Wilson Stadium. High five for being that loyal.
If the Raiders ever played within a reasonable distance of here I would jump at the chance to load up the Drama Queen and head to the game and tailgate J.R. style with her. There won’t be a case of Corona (but a 6-pack sounds like a good alternative) and a flask of Jack for my Coke seems in order too.
I don’t get to see the Raiders on TV at all this year because, well, they suck ass and teams that suck ass don’t get Sunday Night Football, Monday Night Football or Thursday Night Football.
What’s the point to all the meaningless chatter and humorous stories? One of these weeks I need to get a Sunday off, grab the Drama Queen and go out back to BBQ some pizza rolls. After that we can grab some wings from Duffs or pizza from LaNovas or just make some buffalo chicken sandwiches of our own as we sit down on the couch to watch a game on the flat screen.
To me, tailgating isn’t about the beer, the tequila, jello shots, pizza rolls and tri tip. It’s about hanging with your friends, having fun and mocking the shit out of opposing fans. God bless the Raider Nation!