I always find stories of why people are fans of the Raiders to be interesting. The fanbase stretches far and wide, and people are fans of the team for many different reasons. That’s why unlike any other fanbase in the NFL, “Raider Nation” actually means something.
In my case, I wasn’t born into a family of Raiders fans, and I wasn’t born in Oakland or Los Angeles. I wasn’t even a Raiders fan in the early years of my life.
This is the story of why I’m a fan of the Oakland Raiders.
I was born on November 19th, 1989 — San Jose, California. The San Francisco 49ers were the reigning Super Bowl champions, having defeated the Cincinnati Bengals just nine months earlier. About two months after I was born, the Niners repeated as Super Bowl champions in a 55-10 trashing of the Denver Broncos. It was their fourth championship of the decade.
As you can imagine, the Niners were all the rage in the Bay Area. The San Jose Sharks weren’t even announced as an NHL franchise yet, the Run TMC era of the Golden State Warriors was just getting underway, and the Raiders had been in Los Angeles since 1982. The A’s had just won the World Series, but my family were Giants fans.
For football, the South Bay was almost exclusively Niners territory at this point. The majority of my family were Niners fans, just like most everyone else was. Everyone except my Dad, and one Grandma, Aunt and Uncle — they were born in Minnesota and were Vikings fans.
Because of this, I was raised so that my fandom was split between the two teams. Mom and that side of the family would always have me dressed in Niners gear, and cheering for them on Sunday’s. My Dad and a few members of that side of the family would do the same, but just for the Vikings.
It was how I raised, so of course I didn’t think much of it. One day I would go to school wearing a Jerry Rice jersey, and the next day I’d go to school wearing a Cris Carter jersey. This is what happens when your parents like two different teams.
January of 1995 — the 49ers won their fifth Super Bowl. I was six years old, and I remember my family had a huge Super Bowl party. I remember everyone in school being happy, and everyone wearing Niners gear…all my friends, and even the teachers.
This is when things changed. This is when I decided that I wanted to be different… and I found the perfect opportunity to do just that.
On the other side of the Bay Area, the Raiders had just come back to town. As I just mentioned, the Niners had just won the Super Bowl in January of 1995. In September of that same year, the Raiders were back in Oakland.
I didn’t know anything about the Raiders other than they were the “bad guys”, as my parents told me. But it wasn’t just my parents who thought that the Raiders were villains — they were the team that just about everyone hated.
With the Raiders returning to the Bay Area, they started to become more and more relevant to my young self. I would see them on local news when I was at my Grandma’s house, and I started to notice more Raiders gear at The Mall.
The process had already begun…the wheels in my head were churning.
My curious mind had me ask questions such as “Who is that?”, asking about Al Davis on TV…”a bad guy”, my Dad replied. I would ask my Mom and other family members similar questions, just to be given similar answers.
Growing up in California in the early-mid 1990’s, rap music was popular thanks to 2Pac and NWA, among many others. My brother Derrick was eight years older than I was, so he was in his early teens and already entrenched into rap. I’d hang out in his room and play video games or whatever, and I remember seeing something with NWA on TV, and they were all wearing Raiders gear.
It just looked cool. I liked the music and I liked how they acted, how they looked. I was enamored with the iconic Raiders logo, and I loved the colors — Silver & Black.
So I decided to do the unthinkable, and my allegiances were officially changed — I had fallen to the dark side. I couldn’t help myself. I was drawn to the Raiders like a moth to a flame.
I particularly loved that everyone hated them, and that they were “the bad guys”. I thought it was awesome, and I still feel the same way today.
It was summer break, and I told my parents and my older brother that I was no longer going to cheer for the Niners and the Vikings. I don’t remember much else, but I can imagine the look on their faces when I told them that I wanted to cheer for the Raiders.
What I do remember, is being sent to my room. I really can’t overstate how much my family hated the Raiders. Still to this day, my Dad is appalled that I’m a Raiders fan. He’s barely started to accept it, and I’m 26. Remember, he’s the Vikings fan, who Oakland beat in the 1976-77 Super Bowl.
So that’s just how it was growing up in the South Bay, and with my family specifically. The Niners side hated the Raiders because of the Bay Area rivalry of the past, which was about to be renewed. And the Vikings side of the family hated them because of the Super Bowl loss, among other reasons.
When I came back to school after summer break — September of 1995 — I began to tell my friends that I was a Raiders fan now. It was their first season back in Oakland, and unfortunately I never had any Raiders gear because my parents refused to buy me any. But I was still a proud fan nonetheless.
It didn’t take long for me to be known in school as “Nick the Raiders fan”. This, being different, just made me an even bigger fan.
I started to learn names of the players, and my first favorite was Tim Brown. Quick story for context: My dream school as a kid was Notre Dame, so that was a big reason why I liked Tim Brown. I would pick Notre Dame on NCAA for the Sega Genesis because I liked the leprechaun logo. And then my best friend growing up also liked Notre Dame.
So from there, my fandom continued to grow. James Jett, Napoleon Kaufman, and then of course the GOAT, Charles Woodson. Right around the same time Woodson was drafted, Jon Gruden became the new Head Coach. The faces he would make and how angry he would get just cracked me up, and I loved every second of it.
In 2002, Rich Gannon led the Raiders to the Super Bowl. I was 13 years old, and this was a big moment in sports history for me. It would be vindication for my favorite team, and it would be bragging rights over my family and friends.
Unfortunately, we all know how that game went. I was devastated. I never even considered the idea that the Raiders would lose the game, and it made it worse losing to Gruden.
Being young and optimistic, I figured we would right back in the Super Bowl the next year, and that we would get revenge.
Losing season after losing season and disastrous move after disastrous move, the Raiders became the laughingstock of the not only the NFL, but of professional sports.
I went through Junior High, High School and College not experiencing one single winning season. Not even one. When I turned 24, the Raiders literally hadn’t had a winning season for half of my lifetime.
It’s hard to describe what that’s like. It’s obviously miserable, frustrating, and a lot of other things — but what’s most sad is when it just becomes the norm for you. When it’s all that you know.
But this is where the term “diehard” comes from. And this couldn’t be more true than with the Raiders.
Now we’re in present day 2016, and I’m still waiting for those bragging rights. Sure, winning the Battle of the Bay was great, and I still will randomly text a screenshot of the score to some family and friends, but that’s not what I’m after.
As Stephen Curry recently said, “I’m trying to chase rings”.
So that’s my story of why I cheer for the Oakland Raiders.
As I mentioned in the intro, I always enjoy hearing stories of why others are fans of the Raiders. So hit me on Twitter or drop a comment below, and share your story.
I hope we all have bragging rights soon. Go Raiders.