A Nation Divided

As you may have noticed, there was no podcast this week. It wasn’t due to scheduling or illness. Rather, we decided you probably didn’t want to hear two local fans moping over the latest news that our Oakland Raiders are living on borrowed time. In a matter of 2-3 years, the chrome franchise we all love, is leaving to Las Vegas. I feel your pain…and excitement. Let me attempt to lay it all out for you and mend the wounds that are dividing the Raider Nation.

It’s been 22 years since the Raiders came back home from the City of Angles. Prior to that, the phenomenon we know as the Silver and Black spent, you guessed it, 22 years in “The Town.” We’ve been here before. These wounds aren’t brand new, they’ve been reopened.

To make matters worse, the Raiders aren’t moving to a temporary location with a false paradise promised but to never be delivered as was the case in LA. Nope, they’re gone for good. They will be moving into a brand new, state of the art, fully functional, shiny, silver and black stadium in the entertainment capital of the world. They won’t be back. And judging by council member Larry Reid’s latest reaction, he won’t have them back even if they wanted / needed to return. In fact, Larry wants them out of Oakland yesterday.

Many of you feel the same way; many of you don’t. This dissension is causing a chasm to run straight down the middle of the Nation. This split doesn’t exist solely on this blog. It exists worldwide; Raider Nationwide. I’m hear to tell you that this needs to stop.

Look, I get it. I live in the bay (no, not Oakland) and it hurts to know that the team and the venue that brought me so many new friends and united my father and I at a very early age will soon be a ghost in my mind. No more tailgates, early morning treks down 880, or post-game leftover feasts while tossing the pigskin across the littered parking lots nestled between Hegenberger and 66th. But, I digress.

On the other side of the fence are a large, just as loyal, group of fans that don’t live in California, much less the bay area. A large majority of these folks haven’t been to the Coliseum. Prior to this move, you would not have questioned their loyalty. In fact, you would have pointed to the fan who grew up a Raider fan in London, England as proof of the deep loyalty and extensive reach that is the Raider Nation. This was a badge of pride. A chip we held that no other team in professional sports (save for a few) could lay claim to. And now, it’s what’s tearing this fan base in two.

As a lifelong Raider fan, I ask you to lay down your arms and understand each other’s experience and perspective. I don’t think I have to go in any more detail explaining the pain of bay area Raiders fans. The beginning of this article, many other blog entries across the web, and countless comments on social media do that just fine. But let’s turn our attention to those of you who exist everywhere except the port where this pirate ship has dropped anchor for over four decades.

You’re not close to port. You may have visited, you may have loved it even, but you don’t live here. This isn’t your fault. It’d be silly to expect everyone to relocate their entire lives just to prove their loyalty to this ragtag bunch of silver swashbucklers. Remember, thanks to all of you (local and afar) we are the Raider Nation; not Raider Area (County, Region, etc.). So I get it. You, like most of us, have been craving a new stadium for decades and can finally see the shimmer on the horizon. No, it’s not a desert mirage. It’s what we have deserved for so long even if it’s not where we deserve it. This is much easier for you to accept simply because of geography.

I know I’m oversimplifying this all. It runs much deeper for locals (tradition, economics, jobs, etc.). But we all need to step back and see the big picture. We weren’t getting a new stadium in Oakland. There was plenty of time to get this done and there are many you can point the finger at: Mark, Oakland, the NFL, hell even Al. But the fact remains, it wasn’t going to happen. We were pushed out by the powers that be and enticed by shiny things one state away. For this reason, (and numerous others) out of town fans aren’t going to feel sorry for you.

It’s time to reach an agreement and make a decision. It’s going to take me a while to accept the change and move forward but, I’ve spent plenty of time on the deck of this ship. For those who haven’t, of course you’re ready to set sail on the sea of change. This is an exciting time for you. You sacrifice nothing and gain quite a bit. I can’t blame you for circumstance.

Some of you (both local and out of town) may never even visit the new vessel while continuing to support. I don’t judge you and neither should anyone else. We all have different priorities and situations in life that either allow or prevent us from making the journey to watch our team play. I know plenty of bay area fans that haven’t been to a game in years or even at all. They’re no less of a fan than any of us who have. Go ahead and try to tell them they’re not, I’ll wait.

It’s those of you that chastise the excited faction for being enthusiastic and / or are planning on (or already have) denouncing the Raiders, burning your gear, flipping off the stadium, and boycotting games. This isn’t a surprise to me. But remember, the NFL is a business and in business there is no love. We, as a dejected fan base, are considered collateral damage. Don’t like that explanation? Too bad Raider fan. You’re tougher than that, suck it up.

Yeah, this sucks. I hate it. It’s the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning. I rub my eyes and hope it was all a dream. Funny, I felt the same way when we were headed to the playoffs; when Carr went down for the season; when Al Davis died. But it is real and it’s a tough cup of grog to swallow. Well I’ll tell you what brother, I’m ready to pinch my nose and start drinking.

Why? Because I’m a captain and captains go down with their ship. Pirates don’t flee. They don’t jump overboard and they certainly don’t quit on their team. We have 2-3 years left and I honestly believe we’re bringing one more trophy back to Oakland. To be honest, there is no better way to go out. I will be there screaming my head off chanting RAAAAIIIIIDERRRRRRRRRRSSS!

As a proud member of the Nation, I’ve always believed that either you’re with us or against us. I’ve always said I’d represent the shield no matter where our team goes (yeah, that was easier to say when we were playing in Oakland). So Raider fan, are you with us or against us?

Raider Nation, I ask you to join me and send this crew off to sea with the most rollicking song they’ve ever heard before. Hate the owner, hate the league, but love the team and swill some Rum with your fellow scallywags. What you do or where you go after this team leaves are of no concern to me at present. In the meantime, we must band together and root this team to the promised land. Until they leave, we’ll do what Raiders do and Pillage Just for Fun!

Written by: Kenny Stapler