Unlike Some Franchises, Location Does Not Matter for the Raiders


Oct 12, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders helmet on the turf during the second half of the game against the San Diego Chargers at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

The Raiders are above being tied to or identified with a single location.

I remember cold Sundays growing up in Upstate, New York. My brother and I would go outside around halftime of the early NFL games and play tackle football in the snow as my father played the role of all-time quarterback. We used two footballs — a Giants ball and a Jets ball. Neither of us were Giants or Jets fans. Those were simply the only balls they sold at the local department store (They sold Bills balls, but we hated the Bills). Depending on who was playing offense or defense, we were usually pretending to be Marcus Allen or Howie Long.

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Truth be told, my brother and I weren’t really sold one a single favorite team yet. We were sold on the game and how much fun we had playing against each other while spending time with our dad. We both loved football and it had little to do with having a favorite team or player.

It was almost dark by the time these arctic tackling sessions were over — just in time to head inside for some hot cocoa and dinner. We could see the television in the living room from the kitchen table, so to the dismay of my mother, we got to watch football while we ate. Those memories stick with me. The smell of mom’s stew or chili. My hands thawing on the warm cup of cocoa. Those silver helmets on the television screen.

Growing up, that was football to us. To this day, regardless of the success the Raiders have, when I close my eyes and picture a football helmet, I see the Raider helmet.

Full disclosure — I’m not even a Raiders fan.

To me, that speaks to the power of the Raider image. The Raider helmet is branded as the symbol of football in the mind of a guy who grew up over 3,000 miles away from where the team currently plays.

I’ve read all kinds of articles lately that talk about the Raiders relocating everywhere from St. Louis to Los Angeles. Not long ago, the notion of moving to San Antonio was tossed around. In the comments section of all of those articles, irate members of Raider Nation voiced their complaints and concerns. “The Raiders belong in California”, they’d say. Even then, arguments would start between Raider fans about where in California was the true home of the Raiders. Sometimes it got ugly. It shouldn’t have.

I’ve been writing about the Raiders since day one — mostly by choice.  I even wrote a graduate thesis on how Al Davis ran the franchise — for better or worse — during his life. I’ve always been infatuated with the franchise, from the iconic players who have worn the Silver and Black over the years right down to the die-hard members of Raider Nation. From what I can tell, Raider fans are absolutely the most passionate in all of American professional sports.

They are different. And they are everywhere.

Looking around the NFL, you can see what I mean. Cowboy fans are annoying, but mostly when they are good. They tend to fade into the background when their team isn’t doing well. At the end of the day, however, the Cowboys are Dallas and Dallas is the Cowboys. There is no separating the two. Same for the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers. These teams — along with the Raiders — are the Mount Rushmore of fan loyalty when it comes to professional football. But the Raiders are the outcasts. The Raiders are special.

Raider fans never fade away. They keep talking, regardless of the team’s record.

Being a Raider fan is about more than rooting for a football team. I’ve seen that since I started covering them. Raider fans don’t have pictures of themselves or their kids in Raider gear as profile pictures on Facebook and Twitter. They have modified Raider logos, unique to their heritage or where they are from. They have Raider helmets, flags, banners. Being a Raider fan is part of who they are, all day, every day. Their bios usually let you know it in the first words: “Raider fan, father, Pediatrician.”

Raider Nation is not a group of fans. Raider Nation is a religion. It’s a worldwide religion where there is no Vatican, no Mecca. Oakland is not where the heart of the Raider fan lies. Nor is Los Angeles. Raider Nation goes to mass every Sunday wherever the Raiders take the field, whether it’s Oakland, Denver or San Diego. Silver and Black are more than colors. They are the lifeblood of something unique in sports — something that can’t be tied to a region, a state, a city or a stadium.

The church of Raider Nation is in the heart of every fan.

If you ask me, regardless of if the Raiders stay in the Bay Area, move to Southern California or leave the Golden state altogether, they should follow suit of some European soccer clubs and drop the name of the city from their name completely.

The Raiders.

I can see it. It works. It’s unique and it lets the world know that when you take the field against the Raiders, you take the field against Raider Nation. There is no home-field advantage. The Raiders and their fans are always at home.

For many of you, this little rant will fall on deaf ears. That’s fine. But I know there are some of you out there who can understand what I’m saying here. The next time you read an article talking about new stadiums and relocations, just relax. The Raiders are not Oakland’s team or L.A.’s team. They aren’t San Antonio’s team and they’ll certainly never be St. Louis’ team. The Raiders are your team, Raider Nation, wherever they end up.

Location changes none of that. Especially to a couple of kids pretending to be Raider legends while standing in a foot of snow.

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