Opinion: From relocation to Oakland finale, Raiders fans deserved better than what team gave them

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Opinion: From relocation to Oakland finale, Raiders fans deserved better than what team gave them

Post by admin » Mon Dec 16, 2019 7:54 am

When it was over, after the home team collapsed in crunch time to drop a fourth consecutive game, Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr trekked to the Black Hole.

Carr wanted to say farewell to a few members of the Raiders Nation that he has shared some Coliseum memories with, a gesture that was noble enough after the final home game on Sunday closed the book on a dominant chapter in the franchise’s history.

As Carr approached the stands behind the south end zone, the fans booed.

They booed heartily. And keeping with Black Hole character, they booed even more when he jogged away after a brief visit.

How fitting. Sure enough, the Raiders were shut out in the second half by the Jacksonville Jaguars and Carr was outplayed down the stretch by rookie Gardner Minshew.

“What’s new?” Carr said of the boos in the aftermath of the 20-16 defeat. “When we don’t win, that’s going to happen. Trust me, it’s nothing under my skin. It’s nothing new.”

Yet this seemingly had a deeper meaning than the typical booing.

The Raiders (6-8) wilted on a day when so many of the franchise’s legends – Marcus Allen, Tim Brown, Fred Biletnikoff, Jim Plunkett and Charles Woodson were all in the house – returned to mark the farewell with what was supposed to be a victory lap.

With so much electricity in the air – the appreciation flowing inexplicably, even though the team is headed to Las Vegas with the potential of bursting team owner Mark Davis’ pockets with cash – the Raiders found a way to prick a pin in the balloon.

How embarrassing. It’s why Raiders coach Jon Gruden said he was sorry. Why rookie defensive end Maxx Crosby stood in a solemn locker room bemoaning the “sucky” feeling. Why Carr left the place angry. Woodson simply said, “It was hard, man.”

They all knew. The fans – some of the most passionate in the NFL – deserved better. Especially on a day when they ignited up the “Al Fire,” the commemorative flame that pays homage to the late founder, Al Davis, for the last time in Oakland.

But how quickly did the party turn to trash. Literally.

By the end of the game, the south end zone was littered with garbage that delivered the same type of message that would later rain on Carr. Never mind the several dozen security guards that began lining the perimeter of the field in the third quarter, preparing for madness. Someone from the Black Hole hurled nachos that hit the target. The stuff was splattered in the end zone. Message sent.

They’ve seen better days round here. But just not many in the past 25 years, as one cynical, long-time scribe pointed out, given the ineptitude that has enveloped the Raiders product on the field.

You know the Jaguars loved how this all went down on Sunday. Minshew, who threw two TDs to Chris Conley in the final 5 minutes and 15 seconds, said he “probably saw more middle fingers today than I have in my whole life.”

The Jaguars (5-9) were intent to feed on all that.

“We wanted to spoil the party,” Jacksonville defensive end Calais Campbell told USA TODAY Sports. “We knew what the history here meant. But there’s nothing worse than being the guy getting beat when they show the history of the last game in the stadium. We wanted to be sure they will show us in a good light with that history.”

Seemingly everyone showed up feeling the nostalgia. A couple hours after the game, nearly a dozen officers from the Oakland Police Department parked their motorcycles near the logo at midfield and took pictures. At halftime, while Woodson handled the mic and addressed the crowd with roughly three dozen former Raiders in tow, some of the ex-players took selfies on the logo.

Before the game, the crowd roared with an appearance by MC Hammer. You know it doesn’t get much more Oakland than that.

Then there was the tailgate party for the ages. More than three hours before the game, the parking lots were full – and hopping. The beverages flowed, grills sizzled, beats boomed and the bud burned. With perfect weather on their side, Raiders fans partied like there would be no tomorrow.

And no, there won’t be for this exact scene.

“This will never be recreated in Las Vegas. This is Oakland,” said Anthony Billups, an Oakland native who attended his first Raiders game in 1967. “It hurts to see them leave. It’s Oakland all-day.”

The opinions were mixed when it came to the manner of acting on the fandom from here. Some fans maintain they’ll support the team but won’t travel to Las Vegas. Others, like Billups’ pal, Paul Auday, pledge to keep attending games at the “new” home, the $1.9 billion Allegiant Stadium.

“I go to Vegas three times a year, anyway,” Auday said.

One of the music-makers at work, DJ Bullo, insists he’ll set up shop in Las Vegas, just as did on Sunday, when he and fellow DJs attracted a crowd by mixing on six turntables emblazoned with the Raiders logo.

“Oakland has the best fans in the world,” Bullo said. “So, this is the last of an era.”

It seems that the rabid fans just deserve better. The last time the Raiders left, to Los Angeles in 1982, they came back after 13 years. But this time it’s for keeps. The move is another manifestation of the cold-blooded nature of the business that is the NFL, which they know all too well in St. Louis. And in San Diego. And a generation ago in Cleveland, and before that, Baltimore.

Franchises move, showing exactly where fan loyalty ranks against the bottom line.

Kudos to Carr for showing up in the Black Hole, boos and all, for a bigger purpose. He gets it.

“Some of those people will never be at a Raider game again,” Carr said. “It’s the last time they will go. You feel for them. It’s weird that you won’t call ‘em the ‘Oakland Raiders.’

“That’s crazy, right?”

Sad, too. The Black Hole just won’t be the same in Vegas.

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