I’ve been a Raiders fan my whole life.
I was raised in East Oakland, about 15 minutes from the Coliseum. I was lucky enough to watch the Raiders play their best football since returning to Oakland in 1995. Rich Gannon. Charles Woodson. Tim Brown. Napoleon Kaufman. The early 2000s Raiders were an unstoppable force that would undoubtedly make any team today shake in their cleats.
But then 2003 happened. The Raiders had gone 11-5, clinching their third straight AFC West title and were favored in Super Bowl XXXVII against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Raiders lost, 48-21, and — as many know — have not been back to the playoffs since.
Despite a 14-year playoff drought and watching some insufferable teams, I’ve maintained my loyalty to the silver and black. I’ve missed grandpa’s birthday and the quinceaneras of multiple cousins because the Raiders were playing. I’ve lost hundreds of dollars, dating all the way back to middle school, betting on them to win with my friends. I even managed to make my girlfriend at the time a fan despite the team going 3-13 in 2013. Not once have I ever watched a game without giving the Raiders at least a small chance to win.
But then something happened during my sophomore year at Cal that had never happened before: I was accused of being a bandwagoner.
I was at La Burrita on a Sunday. Oakland had just lost, but I was still in full Raider gear. Another Raider fan waiting for his food looked at me and asked me if I was really a Raiders fan. He didn’t believe me when I said “yes,” and told me to name five players on the team. After I did so with ease, he apologized and told me that he was noticing a lot more “Raiders fans” these days, and it was starting to annoy him.
I was annoyed at his question, but I could see where he was coming from. Quarterback Derek Carr was starting to catch the NFL’s attention. Linebacker Khalil Mack was making strides of true greatness in his rookie season, and running back Latavius Murray appeared to be the best running back the Raiders have had since 2010 Darren McFadden. It was the perfect time for someone to jump on the Oakland bandwagon.
Despite 14 losing seasons, Raider Nation has always been loyal. Even with all the ups and downs — and they were mostly downs — the Coliseum was always the loudest and proudest place in the Bay Area every Sunday. In my mind, the Raiders’ newfound success wasn’t supposed to bring in fans of other losing franchises. It was supposed to be a reward to Raider Nation for never giving up hope. I did not want my Raiders to end up like the 2012 San Francisco Giants, who made everybody in the Bay Area a panda hat-wearing “fan” overnight.
The loyal fans had to deal with Andrew Walter before Carr. The true fans had to deal with Darrius Heyward-Bey before Amari Cooper. The fans who bleed silver and black had to go through eight head coaches since 2003 before Jack Del Rio.
So to anyone who wants to casually jump on the Raiders bandwagon this season, might I suggest a visit to that new stadium about an hour South of here. I hear they’re dying to fill it up.
Contact Chris Tril at [email protected].