My friends Jared and Andrew live in Alameda and are Bengals fans, so they decided to come along to the game with me. We had plans to meet up with other people and tailgate, but traffic to the stadium for the home opener had other plans. We were stuck waiting in the car for a good hour trying to park in the cash only lot. Note to future Oakland tailgaters: arrive early! Our friends turned around and went home, but we stuck it out and evently set up camp in the Oracle lot.
Living in Ohio, I’ve never met any real Raiders fans and only had stereotypes and rumors to go on about them. I was looking forward to being “scared” and had this idea that they would be a rowdy and a rough bunch. Looks are deceiving! My friends were wearing Bengals shirts and I was wearing Oakland colors, as I plan on being a pseudo fan of the home team at each stadium. No one gave Jared or Andrew much of a hard time, just a little normal jawing. The tailgate scene was pretty cool, Raider Nation has that grungy, tough guy thing down. I liked the tents, flags, and general splendor of the crowd.
I left my friends to get over to the stadium and walked through a packed stadium parking lot and the fans were a little more “in character” over here. I had my GoPro out (still hoping to recover my video… ah technical failure at the first stadium) and as I walked through the chanting and cheering between fans was ramped up and at times a little R rated. YES. This is what I wanted, pro football tailgate atmosphere!
The Oakland Raiders were gracious enough to provide me with a press pass for this game and I picked it up at their press will call and headed into the stadium. After looking for my stadium contact (I need a team employee witness) in the press box, I headed down to the field to take advantage of my press pass. I’ve been to the Coliseum for an Athletics game in 2012 and was eager to see the difference between the baseball and football set up. My friend James pointed out that I chose to go to the only baseball/football venue first… guess I can’t give up baseball that easily!
Seeing the baseball diamond on the football game did stir up some of my earliest NFL experiences at Cleveland Municipal. After a brief moment of nostalgia, I walked along the Raiders sideline watching the Bengals and Raiders warm up. Despite all the NFL games I’ve gone to over the years and covering OSU football where they churn out future professional athletes, I will never get over how big these guys really are… especially close up! No thanks to getting tackled or blocked by any of them.
While on the field I also had my eyes peeled for crazy fans and ventured over to the infamous “Black Hole.” Seriously though, I think I was more pumped about seeing the fan base, then the actual football game. After seeing them on TV over the years, I was ready to get the real experience. That’s what I love about attending live sporting events- the crowd and the gameday atmosphere. The stands weren’t full yet as people weren’t leaving their tailgates yet, but I did meet Gorilla Rilla and a few other super fans.
After the first quarter, I headed down to the main concourse and walked over to the standing room behind the Black Hole endzone. The Bengals were driving down the field again, but the crowd was still in the game and loud as the Raiders held them to a field goal. Though I was rooting for the Raiders, I was happy to see former Buckeye kicker Mike Nugent nail a field goal despite the fans best attempts at distraction. The stands go down pretty close to the end zone, so I’m sure the language was colorful (it was a short field goal).
During halftime, I ventured up to see the eternal flame dedicated to deceased owner Al Davis. I quickly tried to think of people who I know have eternal flames and thought dang Al is in good company with JFK and Princess Di. Too bad if the team moves to LA this won’t be in the new stadium’s plans. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get right next to the flame, though in retrospect that seems like a good call by the Raiders. Drunk fans (not me) and fire seem like a bad time. After settling for a picture by the fence I walked up to the 300 level to continue on my stadium exploration. Most of this level is tarped up during A’s games, so I was curious to see the vantage point. It wasn’t bad at all for football and I met back up with Jared and Andrew to watch most of the second half.
The Bengals were dominating this game and that took the crowd out of the game. The stadium also started to clear out which was good for me, as I got a seat by my friends. We watched the Bengals continue to control the game and talked about the atmosphere and pointed out fans that we thought were “interesting.” People watching is not disappointing! We were all surprised by a number of kids we saw at the game. I should also mention that there a couple of Kid’s Zones too in the concourses. My parents are Browns season ticket holders and never let me or my sisters attend games until we were older and I’ve been of the mindset that NFL games aren’t appropriate for children. I will honestly say that the atmosphere for this game really wasn’t bad and that the majority of the fans I encountered were really polite. My friends, who were wearing opposing team shirts thought the same thing. Maybe night games are rowdier?
I had to head back to the press box to get my witness log book signed, so I left Jared and Andrew with a few minutes on the clock in the fourth quarter. Maybe it was me, or I like to think because the Coliseum is the oldest NFL stadium, I had a hard time figuring out how to get back down to the main concourse and not actually just exit the stadium. Some stadium employees almost directed me right out of the park! Luckily, I found my way back to the main concourse and back to the press elevator. The two-minute warning had the elevators closed for coaches, so I headed back into the stands to watch the final plays of the game. Oakland had managed to not get shut out, but the Bengals ended up winning 33-13.
There was a large group of Bengals fans on the visiting team side and they got loud with the “Who Dey” chant which elicited a nice boo from the Raiders faithful. As a Browns fan who has heard that chat way. too. many. times., I was smiling… well as much as you can when see the Bengals win and you know your team is 0-1. But whatever. After I got my witness log book signed I made my way back to Andrew’s car. The parking lots looked like they had just lost a battle and they kinda did. We waited out the post-game traffic with a few other Raider fans and they asked if people had given my friends any trouble. They were happy to hear we had all had a great time at the game.
Despite the tough shell Raiders fans seem to portray, the fans were awesome and the gameday atmosphere is worth the small hassle to actually get to the game. The only thing that was very prevalent in the parking lots and a little at the game that I thought was “inappropriate” was pot. Andrew said that was just how California is, so I guess if you don’t like weed, that might be the one thing to warn you about. Personally, I don’t care for it and was surprised by the disregard for the law, but to each their own. I wouldn’t let that deter me from coming back to another Raiders game at all. I loved my first time with Raider Nation and hope where ever the team winds up in the future, the fan base stays rambunctious and “scary.” Couldn’t have asked for a better first game!
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Special thank you to Erin and the Raiders for their help and hospitality!