The Las Vegas Raiders will be reigniting their Bay Area rivalry versus the San Francisco 49ers this weekend. A man caught in no man’s land so to speak is former Raiders radio announcer Greg Papa, who now calls the games for the ‘Niners.’ Let’s take a look at his final days with the Silver and Black and his thoughts on the two fan bases.
Raider Nation saw many changes with their favorite team as they transitioned to Las Vegas. Among those changes, were the faces inside the radio booth. Out went Papa and in came Brent Musburger, a move that was met with harsh criticism from many fans. Nevertheless, the Bay Area fixture stayed close to home, joining the ‘other side’ with the 49ers. In an interview by way of The Mercury News, Jerry McDonald provided some insight from Papa on all things Raiders.
The day I was fired by the Raiders
Papa recalled the day that his tenure ended with the Raiders, a long-time friend and confidant of Al Davis, had been with the team since 1993. The announcer was with the organization through some of its darkest times, specifically when they couldn’t sell out the Coliseum in Oakland, and Raider Nation had to keep up via the radio. Alongside now Pro Football Hall of Famer Tom Flores, Papa was the ‘voice of the Raiders,’ specially for those in the Bay Area. Then, in 2017, Mark Davis wished Papa well and moved on from the legendary announcer.
What led to the parting is credited to an interview that Papa once gave. Chiefly, at the root, was Papa’s statement regarding Mike Shanahan. Essentially, Shanahan was interviewed for the Raiders head coaching gig by Mark, something that didn’t sit well with Papa.
“Mike Shanahan can coach 31 teams in the NFL and be successful. But he cannot coach Al Davis’ Raiders.”
While he remained with the team a few more seasons, ‘things changed’ according to Papa. He noted that Mark wanted him to apologize for the remarks but he refused. In fact, Papa stands by his statement to this day.
The Raiders and 49ers are a lot alike…
A sentiment felt by Papa is that the two organizations and their fan bases are very similar. He shared his theory that the 49ers are often thought of as ‘white wine sippers’ while Raider Nation is seen as ‘The Terminator and Skullman.’ However, Papa points to the socio-economic divide that seems to be the prevalent thought when people think of the two fan bases.
“That may be true to some degree, but really it’s not. We’re all just people. I’ve sat down and had beers with both sides. They love football, and they love their team.”
Papa noted that both he and McDonald have been ‘inside‘ and they’ve seen the ‘commonalities’ that both the organizations and fan bases share. While Papa’s statements make sense, I would personally be hard-pressed that fans from either side share in this sentiment. Big picture, yes, we’re all just people. Be that as it may, good luck asking anyone in Raider Nation or the Niners’ fan base if they’re anything ‘alike.’ Regardless, it will be an odd sight (or listen) to have Papa call the game from a San Francisco perspective, but in the end, the NFL is a business.
*Top Photo: Paul Chinn/The Chronicle