The late, great Hunter S. Thompson once wrote this about the Oakland Raiders “The Raiders of old were vicious and crazy and cruel. Hanging around their locker room was like hanging around the weight room at Folsom Prison. Not all of them were ex-cons, but there were always enough Killers and Rapists and Bank Robbers around to make you nervous.”
Also, when writing about the Raider Nation he had this to say “The massive Raider Nation is beyond doubt the sleaziest and rudest and most sinister mob of thugs and wackos ever assembled.” And that’s coming from a guy that became a Raider fan in his later years.
It’s no surprise then, that the national media takes quotes such as these along with pictures and video of the outrageous costumes and get ups that Raider fans display week in and week out regardless of which stadium the team is playing in. They also cite instances of violence involving Raider fans.
One thing you’ll notice, though, is that it rarely happens at the Coliseum in Oakland. The two most prominent instances of violence in recent memory have happened in San Francisco and down in San Diego. It got to the point, after the San Francisco incident, that team CEO Amy Trask felt the need to come to the defense of the Raider Nation.
“I’m aware of the perception, and I don’t believe the perception is the reality,” she said. “Stereotypes are insidious. It’s so simple to stereotype Raiders fans. It’s an easy story. If you are hearing frustration coming through in my voice it’s because there’s frustration in my voice.”
That perception will never fully go away. As long as the Raiders wear silver and black, and as long as Al Davis’ legacy lives on, the rebellious outlaw mentality of years past will continue to be identified with the team to some extent on into the future. And, to be honest, I think Raider fans in general would not have it any other way. The Raider Nation prides itself with being the biggest, baddest, rowdiest NFL fan base in all of sports. That, though, doesn’t mean they have to be identified as thugs, thieves, and all around criminals.
While surfing through the internet I came across a documentary by filmmaker Jason Blalock. The documentary was filmed during the woeful 2003 season in which the team ended up with a record of 4-12. Yes, that was the year after the Super Bowl run. It is titled, quite simply, “Oakland Raiders Parking Lot.” Here is the description of his documentary taken from his website;
As Gertrude Stein once wrote of Oakland, “There’s no there there.” That was before the Raider came to town. Oakland is often portrayed in the media as a lawless and violent place, and the Raider Nation is fingered as a major part of the problem. But as this documentary reveals, beyond the eye of mainstream media, the Raider fans prove to be a familial, loving, and even sentimental bunch. With rich and poor; young and old; white, black and Hispanic fans creatively sharing the tailgate experience, the Oakland Coliseum parking lot may be the only integrated and peaceful place in the dangerous and depressed city of Oakland. Premiered at San Francisco Independent Film Fest 2005.
Enjoy the documentary, and feel free to share your experiences in the comment area below.