Think of the NFL football team with the craziest, rowdiest and most obnoxious fans.
If the Oakland Raiders didn’t come to mind… you must be new to football.
The Oakland Raider’s fans aren’t just fans. They are part of the Raider Nation, the biggest and baddest nation within the USA. Members of the Raider Nation are known as “Football’s Most Notorious Fans” for a good reason. Raider fans tend to be loud, menacing, and proud to make a visitor’s life hell if they root for a team other than the Raiders. I mean just look at the team mascot: raiders. If you compare that with the mascot of Miami (dolphins), it’s easy to figure out that Raider fans like to intimidate. Raider Nation is proud to be the most infamous fan base in the NFL.
On top of all that, the Raiders are from Oakland. Stepping into those city limits is enough to scare anybody with any common sense. The Raiders are also forced to share California’s Bay Area with the San Francisco 49ers, which is enough to drive any team to insanity. If you still don’t believe me, just Google “Oakland Raiders fans”. That should give you a good idea.
Why, you might ask, would I even think about going to as dangerous of a city as Oakland just to watch a football team that hasn’t played well for 12 years?
The truth is… I’m a Raider fan.
So is half of my family, which is where I got my love for the team. The other half… well lets just say they haven’t quite figured out that the Raiders have a greater fan base, so they’re obliviously stuck in the realm of 49er fans.
On one hot August afternoon, I found myself stuffed in a car driving up to Oakland to see the Raiders play against the Arizona Cardinals in a pre-season game. I was leaving for Germany in less than two weeks and didn’t really have time to spend all day at a Raider game. But my dad and uncle were going and I did want to go, so off we went.
- Take the BART
My first secret to surviving a Raider game is to not drive to the stadium. If you’re unfamiliar with the Bay Area, there is this lifesaver called the BART. It stands for Bay Area Rapid Transit and is a great form of public transportation. For Raider games, I park my car at the Dublin/Pleasanton BART station and take the BART to the Coliseum stop. It only costs $7.30 round trip and I don’t even have to deal with the nightmare of parking at the stadium (or the $20 parking fee).
The last Raider game I went to had a huge center set up in the parking lot for the fans to go crazy. It was a way to get them pumped for the game and I really enjoyed getting to be a part of the Raider Nation. I wanted to get to experience the fan center once again so I made my dad leave two hours earlier so that I had time to check out and explore the fan center. As it turns out, the fan center is only available during the regular season and we were there on the last pre-season game. Of course.
- Wear Comfortable Shoes/Clothes – This Means Layers!!
My feet were already beginning to blister thanks to my new shoes so we went inside the stadium to find our seats. Since we were there nearly two hours before kickoff, the stadium was practically deserted. It was very convenient because the Raiders were doing their warm-ups on the field. We were able to get as close to the field as possible, which made for an awesome experience.
Unfortunately, this meant that I had to a: stand in my shoes that were now extremely painful and b: stand in the really hot sun because it was 3:00 in the afternoon. That’s why I highly suggest wearing appropriate clothing. The game started at 5:00 so after the sun began to set it got cold! So make sure you bring layers. It was worth standing in the sun though, because I was able to see the players up close and they just looked like normal people. Very athletic, tall, and muscular people, but regular people nonetheless. I even got to see my favorite player, the best kicker in the NFL, Sebastian Janikowski. He doesn’t know it, but we’re homies.
- Deck Yourself out in Raider Paraphernalia!
I can’t stress this one enough. There’s a pretty good chance that you could go into the scariest part of Oakland and walk around without any fear if you were wearing a Raider shirt. That’s how intense this fan base is. They don’t call it the Raider Nation for nothing. If you aren’t wearing silver or black, forget about it. During this game, the man sitting a row in front of me criticized my appearance because I was wearing a white shirt that was not a Raider shirt. There is apparently a very strict dress code in the Black Hole and I wasn’t following it. Even though I was wearing a (very stylish) Raider headband, this self-proclaimed king of the Black Hole thought I was inappropriately dressed. And whatever you do, do NOT accidentally wear the colors of the team the Raiders are playing that day. You might not make it out of the stadium alive. Which leads me to my next point…
- Know Where You’re Sitting.
A black hole is defined in science as “a region with such strong gravitation effects that nothing can escape from inside it”. Raider fans have their own Black Hole in the Coliseum and it is a whole other world. The Black Hole is like a mosh pit at concerts. It’s where all of the fun and action is, but you’re risking your life when you get inside of it. During this Raider game, I was fortunate enough to sit inside the Black Hole for the first time ever… and it was awesome!! The two Arizona Cardinal fans that had mistakenly bought tickets that were in the Black Hole – they didn’t enjoy it as much as I did. I felt kind of bad for them since they probably didn’t know what they were doing. But it was a big mistake, as they got booed the whole night and the whole Black Hole taunted them. Nobody was hurt, because Raider fans are actually better than that, but it was a wild experience.
That being said, there were a few fights in the Black Hole. They were probably because somebody looked at someone’s wife inappropriately and punches were thrown. It just added to the excitement of the Black Hole. You have to learn to appreciate it for what it is.
- Go Along with the Drunk People
There will be lots and lots of drunks at the game, so be prepared. Your best course of action will be to smile and agree with whatever they’re saying. If they want to give you a high-five, give them a high five. If they talk smack on one of the players, just agree with what they’re saying. The same man from the row in front of me is a prime example. He had already knocked back at least seven beers by halftime and was slurring his words like his life depended on it. I found that the safest thing to do was just go along with whatever he was saying. He easily had 200 pounds and a foot of height on me but I wasn’t fazed. If you have a lot of experience interacting with drunk people (which I really don’t), then treat all Raider fans the same way. Don’t voice any opposing viewpoints and when in doubt, praise the Raiders!
- Understand the Basics of Football
I can guarantee you that somebody will try and talk with you about the game so it pays to have a general idea of how the game is played. Otherwise, you’ll look like an idiot and will probably get called out for it. Just know how many points a touchdown is worth and what the difference between a touchdown and a first down is and you should be fine.
- Enjoy the Experience
You are there to have fun and experience the craziness that is an Oakland Raiders game. There is no experience in the world that is like it, so enjoy the intense atmosphere. Don’t act as though you’re afraid you might get shot (even if you are) because it will just make you stand out more. Relax, enjoy the football game, and you’ll survive an Oakland Raiders game. If you don’t know what to do, say, “just win, baby!”