An everlasting connection to the Oakland Raiders

On March 27, the NFL and the Raiders officially announced the team’s relocation to none other than the infamous Las Vegas. The Oakland Raiders will soon be no more, and frankly, it’s a sad reality that I, a lifelong Raiders fan, am still trying to accept. How could the Raiders leave the Bay Area and a fanbase that has stuck with them through thick and thin? Though the answer to this seems more ambiguous than clearcut, it is evident that the NFL and the franchise itself felt that grander horizons were available in Sin City.

My passion and fandom for the Raiders was rooted at a young age. I grew up in a Raiders household, in which my dad exhibited the most passion that I’ve ever seen one individual possess for a sports team. He lived through the heyday of the Raiders and their three Super Bowl wins at SB XI, XV and XVIII. He remained allegiant to the team even when they moved to Los Angeles in 1982. In 1995, my dad’s loyalty to the team still stood strong and he was rewarded with the Raiders’ return to Oakland.

Since their return to the Bay Area, however, life as a Raiders’ fan has been an up-and-down affair. The pinnacle and downfall of this era was the team’s Super Bowl XXXVII appearance in which Oakland got blown out 48-21 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This loss disappointed my dad and me, yet our love for the team never dissipated. The two of us continued to make our way to the Coliseum whenever possible and watch the team on television with a relentless dedication over the next 14 seasons. It didn’t matter to us that the Raiders were one of the perennial laughing stocks of the NFL during this time span because our fandom was die-hard.

Entering the 2016 season, we were optimistic that this could finally be a step in the right direction for a Raiders team that was coming off a 7-9 record in 2015. The year proved to be even better than my dad and I could have ever imagined. After years of mediocrity and letdowns, the Raiders went 12-4 and finally delivered a playoff berth. It was a special moment that was an homage to our unwavering loyalty to the franchise that has always brought us together.

Sure, the Raiders are only a sports team. But to me, they mean so much more. The Raiders have always meant quality time with my dad. This is a dynamic that I have always cherished and will never take for granted. The team leaving the Bay Area is tough for me to fathom because it means that soon, my dad and I will no longer see our beloved team in Oakland. The memories of the Oakland Raiders, however, will never fade. We will embrace the team’s final moments in Oakland before this chapter inevitably comes to a close.

The name “Las Vegas Raiders” leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. It doesn’t sound or feel right or carry the same mystique as the Oakland Raiders. The team wasn’t suppose to leave its loyal fan base and embark upon a new chapter in, of all places, Las Vegas. My dad and I have talked extensively about the looming move, and we both agree it’s going to be beyond strange seeing the team in their new locale.

My dream is for the Raiders to hoist the Lombardi Trophy prior to their departure from Oakland, because it would mean the world to my dad. It would also be a fitting farewell to the Bay Area community and a joyous moment for a father and son that share an everlasting passion for the Raiders. Once a fan and always a fan, my loyalty to the Raiders will never fade. The bond my dad and I share through this team is too special for me to ever let go.

Ryan Groves covers rugby. Contact him at [email protected].