(It has taken me a little while to get around to making this post due to midterms and projects this week, but I definitely wanted to share my first experience at a Raider Charger game in San Diego. I can honestly say it has to go in my top 3 nights since living down south.)
Police and security were everywhere, the game ended in a stabbing, and the Chargers were left sitting in a pile of shit. One could say the events of the Occupy Qualcomm Movement were comparable to the nationwide Occupy Movement that has been in the news and headlines of late.
I’ve lived in San Diego for over 3 years now, and have had the opportunity to thoroughly compare differences between Raider fans and Charger fans. On the surface it appears to many that Raider fans are unintelligent, violent dissident’s that only go to games to cause trouble and get wasted. Fans from around the league hate us and form biased, naive opinions. This is especially true of the sit at home Charger fans that last week were more concerned with the new episode of “House” starting before realizing that their team was playing on Thursday night. Or for that matter, the fan who gladly sold her end zone season tickets away to myself and my buddy Will (also a Raider fan since birth) in exchange for some extra Starbucks spending money.
The truth is that as a whole Raider fans are some of the most loyal and knowledgable football fans league wide, and that loyalty was apparent last Thursday as approximately half of Qualcomm became occupied by the die hard Raider Nation.
After failing to find parking at the Old Town trolley station, Will was able to direct us to a secret free parking area at the back end of the Stadium that led us down a path straight to the parking lot (proving that Raider fans are smarter than Charger fans even outside of football related topics). It was just like being home in Oakland where my dad and grandpa taught me to never pay for parking at a football game.
The mood was set as we entered the parking lot, and again I started feeling more and more like I was at home. Raider fans were everywhere, sporadically dispersed among the blue and gold that typically represents the venue. The smell of brisket and chili overcame the delicate scent of tilapia fillets and mixed greens, and the shouts of “San Diego Super Chargers” were no match for the 15 inch subs blaring out the sinister tune of the “Autumn Wind”.
While taking in the atmosphere, it wasn’t long before being approached by our first Charger supporter. The man looked to be in his 40’s and attempted to question my right to be wearing a jacket that sported emblems of Superbowl years of which I hadn’t been alive for. Two words were sufficient enough to quiet the intoxicated inquirer: “No Rings”. The tone was set and it was time to get in and make ourselves comfortable.
Upon arriving at our seats we found three additional Charger fans loitering in our spot (Plaza 21, Row 7, aisle seats). After obnoxiously checking our tickets and in disbelief that Raider fans could afford such seats, they reluctantly moved to their proper location which happened to be directly behind us. These three men didn’t know it at the time, but they were about to get a taste of what being a real fan is all about. Their smack talking began before the game ever started, but would soon evolve to what would best be described as the whining, pouting and tantrums of 4 year olds upset and angry because they didn’t get their way.
The back and forth jeering throughout the game was relentless. With every Bush break away, Palmer touchdown pass, and Charger injury the reactions became more and more (and Moore!) entertaining. No expletives or jabs at what we represented could change the fact that in every facet the Raider Nation was taking over their stadium. Cheers for the Raiders and boos against the Chargers overpowered the mellow cries of the home team spectators. Attempts at having security make us sit down were returned with a chuckle and rolling of the eyes by event staff. The over the top one liners stabbing at the allegiance of their fan base and crumbling of their team by Will could only be countered by generic insults about ones mom. The dip spit on Will’s seat was a nice touch I admit, but the fat lipped guy didn’t even have the balls to man up to it after being called out. (the dribble was later mysteriously wiped away)
By the end those fans behind us had been visually and verbally beat into submission, and all they could do was clench their fists as the chants of “Raaaaiddderrrrs” echoed through the home of their team. I’m not one to involve myself in a verbal war, especially when I’m trying to watch the game, but after the way we had been treated I was more than happy and satisfied to watch them swallow the score and the clever wit of words dished by Will.
I was told by one at the two minute warning that a call had been made and it was probably best if I leave the stadium at that point. Needless to say I stayed till the end of regulation and laughed as we exited our section with the scoreboard shining bright: Raiders 24, Chargers 17.
We left the stadium and enjoyed walking the parking lot, high fiving and bs-ing with fellow Raider fans as the Charger faithful quietly got in their cars to silently drive back to their comfortable homes on the cliffs of Del Mar. The view of the Pacific must have brought a sigh of relief to the defeated fan base that night, as they attempted to cleanse their minds of the sea of black that had so ungracefully drowned their lingering hopes of an AFC West division title.
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To say the Raiders are in a slump might be an understatement. They’ve lost two in a row to division opponents. The head coach has made questionable decisions in the wake of Al Davis’ death, sparking rumors that he is taking his power too far. The new quarterback he sold a first and second round draft pick for has thrown 6 interceptions in two games. The defense remains inconsistent, breaking down in crucial moments of winnable contests. The Raiders again are a league leader in penalties and penalty yards. And it’s beginning to appear as though the head coach may be losing respect among some players in the locker room, as well as fans.
Things in Oakland aren’t looking up.
Despite the troubles and problems thus far, I still would like to bring to light a shade of optimism. I remember being 14 years old, and watching the Bill Callahan led Raiders lose four straight games after winning the first four in 2001. Bill Callahan had just taken over the team as head coach, inheriting what Jon Gruden had helped build as head coach the previous 4 years. The Raiders were 4-4, fans were disgruntled, the media criticized Callahan, and the team was about to be left for dead. The next game was against division opponent, the Denver Broncos on a Monday Night matchup on the road. I still clearly remember the feeling I had going into that game. It was like all hope had been lost and the team we had seen grow over the past 4 seasons had fallen apart.
Kind of sound familiar? Coach Jackson has taken over a team that some would say was built by Tom Cable. Again this season, we have watched the Raiders go from a fast start, to hitting some rough bumps in the road. Again, they find themselves heading into a division game, on the road at night, with a 4-4 record. The feeling I had after Sundays loss to Denver very much resembled that same feeling I felt 9 years ago. If we didn’t win that next game at night on the road, the season was over. Period.
That Monday Night in Denver, Rich Gannon went on to throw 3 touchdown passes leading to a complete domination of the Denver Broncos. Rod Woodson returned Brian Griese’s pass that game 98 yards for a touchdown. The win shot gunned the Raiders into a winning streak that would lead them into the playoffs, and eventually the Superbowl.
To be realistic, I realize that team had much more experience. They also had a top tier quarterback, tons of weapons on offense and a very offensively minded head coach. They also had an average defense, whose defensive coordinator was Chuck Bresnahan. Again, sound familiar?
I’m not classifying Carson Palmer with Rich Gannon yet, but I believe that this guy is a real quarterback. Despite the interceptions, I see a guy that can get the ball to receivers in a way we haven’t seen since Gannon. Offensively the Raiders have weapons everywhere. From running back, to wide receiver, to tight end, this team is stacked. The coaches just need to utilize them. Gannon got everybody the ball, it didn’t matter as long as they were open.
Hue Jackson has maybe been a little too zany with some of his play calling, but Raider fans must admit that we miss the creativity Callahan (and Gruden) brought to the table. Jacksons confident energy and no fear attitude are reminiscent of Gruden, but he needs to tone down a bit and focus more on managing the game. Experience plays into that. That being said, it is also crucial Darren McFadden get healthy. Charlie Garner was running back the Superbowl year and was once described as “instant offense”. McFadden is our “instant offense”.
Once again Chuck Bresnahan is the defensive coordinator, leading a defense that has lacked consistency. The Raider defense of 2002 definitely looked better than this bunch, but was not an overpowering group by any means. If this defense can get some stability and keep the score within reason, the offense should be able to do enough to finish the job.
My point is, this division is up for grabs and anything can happen in the NFL once it gets to the playoffs.
Perhaps my comparison is a bit of a stretch, but regardless I will be in Plaza 21 behind the eastern endzone at Qualcomm Stadium this Thursday night. It will be seen if the Raiders can perhaps once again repeat history. But you can bet if they do, I will surely be chanting on my way out of the stadium. Raaaaiiiderrrs!