Raider Nation seeks world domination
They revere their team like a deity. Many claim citizenship to a particular “nation” not recognized by the United Nations. Their military consists of men in spiked shoulder pads, foot soldiers in face paint and warriors slinging beer.
They are Oakland Raider fans.
As the Super Bowl nears, media near and far from Oakland have paid particular attention to the followers of the Silver and Black, who will invade conservative and now a nervous San Diego. Others not lucky enough to go to the game will settle in bars and La-Z-Boy’s, screaming at televisions and high-fiving friends.
Stephen Thompson, who works at Kings Liquor Market and has been wearing Raider’s garb all week, was hoping to snag one of the few thousand tickets to the the 67,000-capacity Qualcomm Stadium. In the meantime, the Raider Nation tribal member and season ticket holder will live in bliss until his team takes the field for kickoff at 3:18 p.m. Sunday.
“Everybody has come into the store and they could see I’m on cloud nine,” Thompson said.
Born in San Francisco and raised in the East Bay, a young Thompson would travel to games 15 minutes by bus. It was back in the day when the Raiders would battle on the field of Laney College and players lived nearby.
The 47-year-old was at the Raider’s AFC Championship game last week against the Tennessee Titans and called it “one of best games I’ve ever seen.” He ranked it with the AFC playoff game two weeks ago versus the New York Jets when rain failed to dampen the spirits of the crowd.
But the best game Thompson attended was the “Heidi Bowl” in 1968. It was when the Raiders overcame a three-point deficit with 50 seconds remaining to win 43-32. Those watching the game on television were not fortunate to see the ending as the station turned to “Heidi,” a made-for-TV premiere movie.
“At that game we didn’t know ‘Heidi’ was on TV,” Thompson said. “We came home and my momma said ‘How are you taking that loss?’ and I said, ‘Mom, we won.’ That was the most memorable game I went to in my life.”
For every home game, Thompson leaves either Friday night or Saturday morning, rain or snow. He spends the night in Benicia, a town about 30 minutes away from the Oakland Coliseum. He gets in line early, before the sun comes up, and tailgates with perhaps 45 other Raider fans.
Food differs depending on the opponent. If they play the Denver Broncos, they put beef ribs on the fire. For the Super Bowl matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he believes a fish entree would be appropriate.
Thompson even flew with the team to Pittsburgh two years ago, sitting next to former Raider George Atkinson on the flight and meeting Owner Al Davis.
Tony Dill, 33, is not trying get tickets, but will be rooting for his team in front of a television. Asked why he was a Raiders fan and Dill answered simply: since his dad was a San Francisco 49er fan, he would grow up to be a Raider fan.
“They get it done and they’re not afraid to maybe hit a little bit harder than needs to be.” Dill said. “They’re the dark side of football.”
But as in all life, there is a yin to a yang. If Thompson is a hardcore fan, then his opposite equivalent is Josh Quinn, a passionate 27-year-old who was “born to hate the Raiders.”
“I’m pretty upset that the Raider fans think they’re so widespread but they can’t fill up the Coliseum,” Quinn said. “It’s gotta be the smallest nation in the world.”
Quinn, a San Diego Chargers fan, teed off on Raider fans, describing them as ignorant, cocky and “filled with steroids.” He thinks the Raiders — who were called for 14 penalties against the Titans last week — play dirty.
Even though his hatred runs deep, Quinn praised players such as Jerry Rice and acknowledged the Raiders have an advantage at home games because of their fans.
But beyond that, his commendations end.
“(The fans) drink and wait for the games on Sunday so they can act like idiots,” Quinn said. “You just have to love to hate the Raiders.
“I think it’s pretty ignorant,” Quinn added. “We’re all Americans, all belonging to one nation. They have a nation? Who’s the president? (Owner) Al Davis?”
Jahn Henderson hates the Raiders and fans on principle. Henderson, a 49er fan, liked the team when it was in Oakland but the fondness ended when it moved to Los Angeles. Then he disliked fans when the Raiders returned, thinking the fans should have been more angry at being betrayed. He assured that he didn’t hate the players, but the fans.
“Anything that goes bad against the Raiders and they blame it on a bad call,” he said. “It’s never the Raiders losing.”
Jake Peralta, a fellow San Diego fan, contributed to the anti-Raider fan remarks.
“It’s one thing to wear a hat or jersey, but it’s another to wear pads and costumes and look like an idiot,” Peralta said.
As for Thompson, he was still waiting for word on Super Bowl tickets Thursday evening.
“Raider Nation spoke its word,” Thompson said. “I’m on hold again. If my name comes up in a lottery, I’ll know. It’s driving me crazy.”
— E-mail William Ferchland at email@example.com
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