For a team like the Oakland Raiders, with such a long and storied history filled with playoffs and championships, there’s no easy way to quickly encapsulate the core philosophy and legend of the team. Would we speak of last minute, hair raising victories? The longest series of winning seasons in NFL history? Hall of Fame players? The enigmatic and ingenious owner? The numerous fascinating and unique individuals the Raiders have had on the team?
There are so many aspects to this team, and its history, that you could spend years discussing it. And I plan to!
However, one thing that stands out is the Raider Mystique, the aura of danger that comes with wearing the silver and black as a player (and as a fan). When people see the Raider shield it creates emotions of various kinds. Pride for the Oakland resident, and usually hate and fear for the other 99% of the planet.
Some older fans have schooled me about the Raiders of the 60’s and 70’s, how this team was a haven for misfits, outsiders and counterculture. I’ve heard how Oakland Police Dept, Black Panthers and Hells Angels would all show up at the Coliseum for the games. How Al Davis took the players no one else wanted, and put them together into a machine that demolished the rest of the NFL. Some fans flocked to the Raiders because they had long hair and a reckless, Screw The Man attitude. During the 1960’s when society was pretty conservative, the Raiders were the go-to team for young rebels who wanted to freak out their parents.
Then came the 80’s and the move to Los Angeles. The rise of thug culture to the mainstream, and gangsta rap as the music of the masses. Suddenly sporting the Raiders hat was a sign that you were ruthless, ready and willing to hurt others. The Raiders as a team were known for their violent, take no prisoners approach, so they were the perfect match for fatherless kids seeking an identity, seeking strength and potency. The Raiders shield lost all connection to football, it was the symbol of NWA and the total collapse of civil society in East LA. Or so it seemed to a frightened public.
That era cemented the sense that Raider fans are all criminals, who watch the games from their cells in San Quentin. Most of us go along with this dark side attitude as a joke, but in some ways there is a tinge of racism. At the Coliseum you see so many black, brown, white and every color fans. I don’t think it’s that way in most of the other NFL stadiums. So when people say Raiders are all welfare-loving drug dealers, they are exposing their stereotypes other races, which is sad to hear.
However, I’m happy to say that you don’t see gangsters and drug dealers in Oakland with Raider gear on anymore. The gangs and wanna-be’s have moved on to other colors and symbols, so if you are trying to be a hard ass with a Raider cap on, you’ll just get laughed at nowadays.
But when it comes to football, other fans will always have a tinge of fear when they see the Raiders shield, it means they are in for a punishing game, no matter what the outcome!