The Oakland Raiders are about to play their final home game at Oakland Coliseum in primetime. Will it be a fond farewell or a Black Hole hellscape? Rob Woodfork asks a pair of lifelong fans in the NFL Week 16 Wrap.
WASHINGTON — For better or worse, after a total of 44 years in Oakland, the Raiders are about to play what is likely their final game at the Oakland Coliseum under the prime-time lights of Monday Night Football.
It’s a pretty risky proposition to even play the game at all, especially in front of a fan base that relishes in its “Black Hole” persona. Considering what unfolded in Cleveland when the first incarnation of the Browns played their final game before bolting for Baltimore, it’s fair to question whether some sort of hellscape might break out among fans who love a good skull mask and spikes displeased over losing their beloved team.
But rather than project my own thoughts on the fan base, I thought it more wise to lean on fellow journalists with ties to Oakland. San Francisco resident Adrian Spinelli is a card-carrying member of Raider Nation, and believes the devastation of losing the team will outweigh any inclination toward destructive behavior.
“I honestly think the fans at the stadium are just gonna get as drunk as possible and just leave it all in the Coliseum,” Spinelli said. “…This fanbase knows how to embrace a moment. Hopefully they can temper the anger to when they get home,” he said, tongue-in-cheek.
The Raiders have been an unmitigated disaster in 2018, as Jon Gruden’s presence has led to the departures of GM Reggie MacKenzie and star players Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper. A once-promising young team on the rise in 2016 has returned to the laughingstock status that plagued them in the years prior — but that hasn’t prompted most fans to say “Bye Felicia” to the Silver and Black.
“We’ve been proudly watching a perennial loser at the Coliseum for over a decade,” Spinelli said. “We love our losing team and enter every season with a sense of renewed hope. I wish they were staying and I can assure you that everyone in the Bay does too.”
WTOP Digital Sports Editor Noah Frank, a California native who describes himself as “a hyper-local sports fan who has only ever rooted for East Bay (Area) teams,” has a much less rosy approach to the Raiders leaving.
“I’ve been slowly divesting myself emotionally from the team over the last couple years,” Frank said, knowing the team was leaving. “Their complete intentional tank job this year made it a lot easier to stop caring entirely. I feel bad for my fellow Oakland fans, especially in light of the Warriors move, but I honestly couldn’t care less about the last game. As an A’s fan, I hope they tear Mt. Davis down brick by brick.”
The late Al Davis isn’t around to see the team he founded and moved back to Oakland in 1995 make its first move outside of California, but Spinelli doesn’t think it will prompt fans to hate the franchise like Cleveland does the Baltimore Ravens, who are in actuality the old Browns.
“I think that was worse, because (late owner Art Modell) changed the name of the team and they became the Baltimore Ravens,” Spinelli said. “At least the Raiders brand isn’t going anywhere. Plus, find me a fan base that travels as well as the Raider Nation and I’ll show you a liar.”
The Raiders brought two of their three Super Bowl trophies to Oakland, and brought countless memories and incredible moments to the Bay Area over the years. A nationally televised win over a division rival in a lost season would be a fine Christmas Eve gift for a forlorn fan base, but not for a franchise that presently deserves a lump of coal.
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