SoCal Feels for the Raiders Leaving Oakland
Raiders fans in Oakland aren’t the only ones sad about the Silver and Black leaving their home in the East Bay. Fans from neighboring Southern California know what it is like to lose the Raiders too.
Since the Vegas rumors emerged I’ve taken the stance that the Raiders belong in Oakland here and on various blogs. Yet, I’ve always tried to understand the greatness of the L.A. Raiders.
Why do so many people across my region follow a team that hasn’t given them a real reason to in almost two decades?
More importantly, would this community follow a team that broke their heart to another new frontier when they have other NFL options, the Chargers and Rams, in closer proximity?
Southern California’s Connection to the Raiders
L.A.’s connection the Raiders dates back to when the ‘Badasses’ won a Super Bowl XI in the Rose Bowl as the Oakland Raiders. They are L.A.’s only Super Bowl Champs as the winners of Super Bowl XVIII.
The current site of the Rams and Chargers SoFi stadium was almost home to the Raiders first. Plus, the current SoFi stadium deal proposed by Rams owner Stan Kroenke eventually got chosen over the Raiders joint L.A. proposal with the Chargers in 2015.
A column from the New York Times in 2016 went into the disappointment Raiders fans felt when their team would not return to L.A. because the Rams and Chargers got selected:
“But while Rams fans seemed to go into hibernation during the team’s absence, Raiders fans continued to wear their colors. They remained drawn to their team’s brash play and menacing image even though its performance on the field was often uninspiring. Many Raiders fans in Los Angeles remain attracted to the team’s mystique — its silver and black colors, the pirate logo, the team’s longtime owner, Al Davis, who died in 2011 but who in his prime strutted the sidelines in leather and snubbed his nose at the football establishment.”
An L.A. Times article by Dylan Hernandez described the Raiders return to L.A. in the 2018 preseason. Hernandez said Raiders fans outnumbered Rams fans at least three to one.
The 19-15 loss as the Raiders first game the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in almost 24 years.
“Even when the Rams ran out, they were booing them. It definitely made us feel right at home. Truly appreciate them. Wish we could’ve won a game for them.” Former quarterback EJ Manuel said after that preseason game.
Former Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie was at that game too. McKenzie spent his first four years in the NFL as a Los Angeles Raiders linebacker.
Just walked through Lot 6 at the LA Memorial Coliseum. It’s covered in silver and black. Spoke to Not Al Davis. Ran into Raider Storm and saw Eric Dickerson bombarded by Raiders fans #RaiderNation pic.twitter.com/LqqpjZcWUQ
— Gilbert Manzano (@GManzano24) August 18, 2018
Gilbert Manzano Review Journal said you could hear Raiders fans answer when the P.A. chanted, “Whose house?”
“It just tells you how strong Raider Nation really is,” McKenzie said after that game. “Once a Raider fan, you’re always a Raiders fan. They bleed silver and black.”
“I think the combination of Oakland and L.A. will migrate to those games (in Las Vegas),” McKenzie said when he was still G.M. “I think we’re going to get a true Raiders fan base.”
Head Coach Jon Gruden said it was awesome being back in Los Angeles too.
“(The Raiders) have history here, a championship history here. There’s still a lot of fans that remember those teams, and rightfully so.” Gruden said after the 2018 exhibition versus the Rams.
Even more recently, a L.A. Times article recently described the L.A. Coliseum or Dignity Healthy Sports park as places where you will see all kinds of team jerseys including Raiders jerseys.
Sean McVay getting razzed a lil walking out to field by #RAIDERS fans. The nation, out in full force today, booing Rams players(who are playing at “home”)as they walk out. Can’t recall hearing that before. pic.twitter.com/LwRfjsoira
— Omar Ruiz (@OmarDRuiz) August 18, 2018
Columnist Arash Markazi wrote that the city has plenty of NFL fans, but many might not call the Rams or Chargers their favorite.
“It’s not an indictment on Los Angeles as an NFL city but rather an indictment on the NFL’s failure to understand Los Angeles.”
Remembering the L.A. Raiders
RIck Romero, 47, of Anaheim described the L.A. Coliseum as a ‘dream’ when it was home to his Raiders. He became a Los Angeles Raiders fan when the team won the Super Bowl in 1983.
After they left in 1994, he said it was totally different. The return to the Bay was mediocre at best as the team went five seasons before their first winning record. It was not like when they came to Los Angeles and started winning right away.
“Oakland was a different breed.” Romero said about his team’s move back to the bay in the 90s. “Totally different than L.A. where everyone knew each other’s first names.”
He said the gameday experience felt more like a party and less like a community when they returned to the Bay.
Still, Romero followed the team then and plans to follow them to Vegas. He said the move to Vegas isn’t really a big deal because he was far more disappointed when the Raiders left Los Angeles for the Bay.
“It seemed like we already were going out-of-state,” Romero said about the five-hour commute to Raiders home games in Oakland which will now get cut in half with the team in Vegas.
As for L.A.’s other teams currently in residence, Romero said he has to follow them only because they’re local.
“In my city, Anaheim, advertising [for Rams and Chargers] is here all over the streets.”
A Transient Team
Mario Caballero, was born in Northern California, but spent the last nine years in Los Angeles after coming here for college. The 27-year-old online advertising professional said he’s been a Raiders fan since birth, inherited from his dad.
“There are pictures of me as a kid in full Raiders get-up for Halloween,” Caballero said.
He drove up for a tailgate versus the Bengals this season and drove up to a tailgate last year. Caballero said he always remembers how crazy and exciting the Black Hole was for a team that wasn’t that good.
The Raiders are 94-106 overall since returning to Oakland from L.A. but they were 118-72 across their 13 seasons in L.A. It took them four years before they saw a losing record in L.A. while Oakland got back a mediocre .500 in three of its first five seasons.
“Extra CURRICULARs didn’t matter, shape of the stadium didn’t matter, all that matters was the Raiders were playing.” Caballero added about his experience watching the Raiders in Oakland.
Unfortunately, the Silver and Black close out their time in the East Bay with three consecutive non-winning seasons too.
Caballero still feels mixed emotions about the team leaving Oakland ‘because that’s where they were born.’
However, Caballero said Raider Nation is the most unique fanbase on the planet. He said Raider Nation is already like a regional fanbase already.
“They’re a transcendent team not held back by barriers.” Caballero said. “It doesn’t matter if they play on Mars, Raiders fans will be there.”
He knows the Raiders in Vegas won’t be the same vibe or experience as Oakland but he is not joining either fanbase in L.A. either.
“The Raiders are named after pirates and sometimes pirates don’t have a home.” Caballero added.
Business as Usual
Darrel Wilson, a 42 year-old South Los Angeles native, hosts the Raiders Brawl podcast and has worked in Los Angeles sports media for almost a decade.
His family, Jamaican descent, came to Los Angeles right around the time the Raiders moved to L.A. which made adopting the team too easy.
Wilson said everyone in the City was wearing Raiders gear as well because they were either NWA fans, gang-affiliated or Raiders fans.
When the team left for the Bay, he was a High School senior. Wilson said it actually made him a bigger fan because the games were no longer blacked out in L.A. and they could watch the game on the local TV.
In fact, Raiders broadcasts and merch sales actually did better in L.A. than the Rams and Chargers when they first moved here in 2016. That was the Raiders last great season but Raider Nation in Los Angeles always supported their Raiders.
As for Vegas, Wilson said he is more likely to go to a game and he excited for more coverage opportunities since it is closer but he does not expect the Raiders brand of play to change.
“There’s no reason for it to change.” Wilson said. “Badass, hard-hitting and crazy fans are perfect for Vegas.”
Darrel, like Rick and Mario, is still skeptical of the Vegas experience including tailgating and wants to see for himself. Most of all he wants to see what sort of home field advantage the stadium brings.
“The Coliseum is dirty and grimy,” Darrel said after clarifying his statement with no disrespect. “Opposing teams did not feel comfortable because of the lack of facilities but now there is no disadvantage for them with state of the art facilities.”
As for what Los Angeles is like since the NFL returned, Wilson said it seems like Raiders and Chargers games are good for the economy.
He described a different vibe in the city on Sundays and that people seem more willing to spend money overall.
“If the Rams are doing good people are happy, the city is happy,” Wilson said.
The Raiders Never Left L.A.
Ace Okeke, better known as @RaiderACE562 on Twitter, described Rams fans differently. The die-hard Raider fan since birth described Los Angeles as apathetic towards the NFL once the team left.
“During relocation a lot of them [Rams Fans] were so crappy to us,” Okeke said about Rams fans in L.A. before they officially moved to L.A. “Stan Kroenke [The Rams Owner] did not want the Raiders.”
The Cerritos resident said he has no love for the Rams or Chargers and puts them both in his top-five most despised franchises. It’s his job to make it seem as if the Raiders were always and never left L.A.
Okeke acknowledged the stereotypes that came with L.A. Raiders fans when the team was here. However, he said it was a product of the times. The 90s in Los Angeles featured the riots and a number of inciting events that attracted violence and bad characters throughout the area, not just Raiders fans.
“They [the NFL] have to acknowledge L.A. is still migrating towards the Raiders.” Okeke said. “They tried to deny the inevitable.”
The Chargers attendance struggles in L.A. are well documented. The Raiders presence facing L.A. NFL teams is also well-known. In fact, a recent ESPN report detailed the NFL’s turmoil with L.A. relocation. League research initially indicated the Rams and Chargers had less local fans than the Pats, Steelers, Packers, Cowboys and Raiders.
Further, the report read:
“A “fair amount” of the Raiders SSL buyers live in L.A. and will hop on I-15 on weekends, an executive with knowledge of the sales says. It has left a few owners and team officials worried and irritated that the Raiders have siphoned off part of an already wary L.A. fan base.”
L.A. Times did a map outlining the most popular NFL team by SoCal Neighborhood. You will find a lot of Rams tickets bought but you can find pockets of Raiders fans too.
Ace, like Rick and others, still holds hope that 30-40 years down the road the Silver and Black will again call Los Angeles home.
Nonetheless, Okeke looked back at the Raiders second-tenure in Oakland foundly. He said he will miss the people and atmosphere.
“Every time I go to a tailgate [In Oakland], I feel like the Raiders have already won.” Okeke said.
He also said that he knows the Vegas gameday experience willturnout different.
Still, Okeke hopes they can find more parking around the stadium because at least trying to recreate the Oakland tailgate experience is ‘non-negotiable.’
A Common Ground
Raymond Almonte described himself as an L.A. mid-city kid from an immigrant family. He works for a non-profit in L.A. now.
Almonte remembers watching a L.A. Raiders playoff game at a young age. It was one of his first experiences watching football. Almonte said everything pop culture at the time was Silver and Black in Los Angeles too.
He isn’t the only person from an immigrant family who adopted the Raiders. One Latino family also said the immigrants in the city related to the Raiders because of the outcast image, per the L.A. Times article.
Further, the 37-year-old Almonte hoped the team would return to L.A. when rumors surfaced over the years but he expressed disappointment that the team was not able to get a stadium in Oakland.
Almonte said he preferred the experience in Oakland over Vegas. He worries there will be more fair weather fans in Vegas.
“Vegas is everyone’s city.” Almonte said.
He doesn’t know if Raiders fans will be able to afford the new stadium especially since Vegas is already filled with so much entertainment and splurging options. Party, gambling and all the resorts fees to pay for the new stadium won’t help the cost of attending a game for your die-hard Raiders fan from Oakland, Almonte said.
Otherwise, Raymond said L.A. Raiders fans can understand what Oakland is going through with the Raiders dipping.
“We understand each other.” Almonte said. “We both went through an era without a team.”
Over the twenty years the Raiders did not have a team in Los Angeles, 22 new stadiums built for 23 teams and 31 preseason or regular-season NFL games were held around the globe. Los Angeles got used as a threat of relocation to get public dollars in those stadium negotiations and they got zero games over that time. Oakland might get the same treatment over the next few years.
Except it will probably be worse in Oakland since L.A. rallied around various success from their other Pro Sports teams like the Sparks, Lakers, Clippers, UCLA, USC, Dodgers, Angels and Galaxy. Meanwhile, Oakland just lost the Warriors to San Francisco and the A’s are still battling for a new stadium.
As for Raiders fans who are about to go through an era without a team like he did, Almonte said:
“How do you tell someone to be faithful?”
He added that faith is a test of will, like marriage, and really all Raiders fans in Oakland can do is stay faithful like he and other Raiders fans in L.A. have.
Oakland is Home
The Oakland Raiders played their final home game in the East Bay on Sunday. It was the day we were dreading since the Silver and Black announced their plans for Las Vegas a few years ago.
An already sad occasion got worse when the team lost in the final seconds to a playoff irrelevant Jaguars team. Fans booed, threw trash and showed their disdain for a garbage product that leaves them for greener pastures.
There is no doubt the East Bay will miss the Raiders the most. I’ve always said Oakland is Mecca for Raider Nation. That won’t change.
Oakland paid for that team to return from L.A. in the 90s and they are still paying for it. The city inspired the team’s names, color and attitude. That community supported the Raiders through their worst decade ever, the 2010s, despite all the constant relocation rumors.
However, the team leaving their home will be felt throughout Raiders fans, including those fans in the team’s former place of residence, Los Angeles. Oakland is the foundation.
A NFL.com article from Marc Sessler said it well:
“And while all this history unfurled successfully for a time in Los Angeles, nothing we imagine and feel about the Raiders would have been possible without Oakland — oft-drowned out by the lights and call of San Francisco, but cut from a cloth utterly unknown to any other gridiron home-front.”
I will always take the stance that the Raiders belong in Oakland. However, I will also always try to understand the greatness of the L.A. Raiders and how the presence of two NFL teams, not the Raiders, changes their lives.
Accurate depiction of what the lower level of the LA Coliseum looks like this afternoon.
— Eddie Paskal (@EddiePaskal) August 18, 2018
Most of the marketing about the Vegas Raiders surrounds its proximity to both the Bay Area and Southern California. In fact, the stadium’s name rights owner Allegiant Air plans for major promotions in those markets to get fans too Raiders games. Vegas is even closer to for Los Angeles drivers L.A. because it is only a 3-4 hour push depending on traffic.
That doesn’t mean Los Angeles is jumping for joy that their neighbors in the Bay are losing their team to another state. Raiders fans in L.A. lost their favorite team before too. Many people like me didn’t even know what it was like to have an NFL team until a few years ago.
Nothing Like Oakland
For over 20 years. Los Angeles had no football team. That is not something I wish on my future generations in the Bay. Those circumstances make you vulnerable to Cowboys and Patriots fans because anything is better than rooting for the 49ers. I felt a similar disdain for the Chargers despite their proximity. It was in my blood.
I chose the Raiders and never regretted it despite the constant Sunday headaches from bad play. Every Raiders tailgate I’ve ever been to in Oakland is among the best days in my life. The people are one of a kind. Having a place where you’re not the only weirdo Raiders fan is an epic experience.
That will always be in Oakland. You can find it in L.A. if you seek it out. Something similar might grow in Vegas but it won’t be the same.
Don’t feel too bad for L.A. We have two teams for just about every sport along with Hollywood and tons of entertainment options, including close proximity the Strip and Las Vegas.
Yet, all of that is not enough for Raiders fans in L.A. to forget about our Raiders whether they’re in Oakland, Vegas or L.A.