The Raiders’ “home” might be in Oakland, California but go into the parking lot of the Coliseum on game day and you will find members of Raider Nation from all over the USA, and further abroad.
The Raiders are one of the few teams in the NFL with an international brand, whose skull and crossbones logo is synonymous around the world. Ironically enough, it has been this brand that has caused division over the past few years as the Raiders have attempted to move away from Oakland, to Los Angeles and now, finally, to Las Vegas.
A Nation, Divided?
On one side, you have the “local” fans who support the Oakland Raiders, meanwhile, it seems the other side supports the Raiders. With the stadium in Vegas having broke ground this week, the division amongst fans will surely be brought to the forefront of social media, if nothing else, out of sheer passion.
As an international fan of the Silver and Black who has spent seven of the last nine years traveling to Oakland to see the Raiders, I am in a unique situation in that I “feel” both viewpoints subjectively. Precisely why the groundbreaking was somewhat of a bittersweet yet exciting moment as a fan.
From The Land Down Under
I grew up in Adelaide, Australia, and started supporting the Raiders in the late 90’s. At the time, games weren’t shown on television “down under.” However, with the internet still in its infancy, the best way to see the scores was by reading the next day’s sports section of the paper.
As the internet grew, so did the ability for Raider Nation around the globe to connect with each other. Over the past 10 years, I’ve tailgated and made life-long friends with some amazing members of Raider Nation. It goes beyond football. I have been a guest of Raider fans on Thanksgiving lunch and dinner, whilst some have made the effort to let me host them down in Australia.
Raider Nation is unique in a way that you can come across a random fellow in the street, not know them from Adam, but you’ll see them wearing the Silver and Black and be compelled to, at the very least, give them the obligatory head nod.
Out With The Old, In With The New
The Coliseum has been a dilapidated structure for many years. However, it became more apparent since the start of the current decade which echoed the feeling that a new home was needed.
The stadium saga in Oakland somewhat mirrors a stadium saga that has happened in my hometown. In short, the football stadium in Adelaide was run down and too far away from downtown, so they built a new stadium in downtown. This has resulted in local football clubs being able to make a profit on gameday while seeing a huge increase in crowd numbers. Additionally, because of its prime location, fans are spending more time in downtown, be it shopping, at local bars and restaurants, or soaking up the atmosphere both before and after games. It has been a boom for the economy and completely revitalized an area of the city that needed a facelift.
The sad thing is that Oakland had the exact same opportunity to do the same with the Raiders. But for several reasons, it didn’t happen. Most unfortunate is that a large portion of the fanbase in Oakland will be hurting despite this being no fault of their own. As much as we like to say, “It’s only a game,” there is little doubt that football has become a culture and a way of life for these fans. It is not fair that the community will be splintered because a group of politicians, a multi-millionaire, and a multi-billion dollar organization couldn’t get their business ducks in a row.
To The Future
On the other hand, I look at how the Adelaide Oval redevelopment revitalized the city and its football teams, and I can’t help but be excited for the future of Raider Nation. Finally, after all these years, the Raiders are going to have a brand new stadium that is going to be the best in the world. Sure, nothing compares to the tailgating experience, but nothing compares to parties on The Strip either. As an international fan, Vegas is close enough to the West Coast that it will be easy to go to Vegas for a game or two, while also being able to go to the Bay and catch up with friends made from experiences at the Coliseum.
The experience is going to be different, and the inevitable comparisons between Oakland and Vegas will be in earnest. “Home” is quite literally where you’ve got your four walls and a roof (or dome). It is the people that determine what you make of it, and Raider Nation will still show up as they have for the past 50 plus years. The memories at the Coliseum will never be forgotten, but as Mr. Davis famously said, “The greatness of the Raiders is in its future.” A future as bright as the lights on The Strip of Las Vegas.