I attended a wedding yesterday all day and knew in advance I'd be missing the game. I was able to find it and record it on DVR, and looked forward to watching. When the wedding was slightly delayed due to latecomers, I figured I'd venture into the sports bar adjacent the reception while we waited for the procession to finish with photos and for others to arrive. It was a place called Cronies, in Ventura, close to my home town of Oxnard. I sat down and watched a little of the Atlanta game, and some others on the other televisions and ordered a beer. I found a seat, and asked one of the waitresses on which television they'd be showing the Raiders game, and was appalled to hear her say, "we don't play Raiders games here. I guess we have had problems in the past, and they decided it best we don't show them; I can have someone come over and explain if you like." I thought, "blasphemy, how can you call yourself a sports bar and not show Raiders games, with plans to publicize this horrible sports bar." I replied that no excuse I could be told would suffice, and promptly left the bar, relegating myself to catching updates on my phone. Needless to say, it was unsettling, and I went on to enjoy the evening.
Later that night, upon arriving home, I quickly noticed the headlines about the shootings and fights that found victims hospitalized and "in critical condition." That unsettling feeling overcame me completely, and thought back to the incidents the waitress had alluded to, and wondered what had happened there in the past for them to stop showing our Oakland Raiders. None of the fans I know personally are violent types, and just have this love, this passion, an addiction if you will, to watch this team play, win, lose, or tie, and love to share and discuss all things silver and black. I've even become part of several Raider groups that somehow find me and add me from my profile pics of Raider regalia on Facebook and Twitter, and I was surprised to find that many of the crazy, superfans that dress up and we see in the Black Hole are part of inner-city youth programs, charities, and members of "Raiders for Christ," groups and similar things. Many of these folks are always there to lend a hand when a fellow member of the Nation is stricken by tragedy, helping with fundraisers, or just to send positive vibes across the world wide web.
When I hear stories that attempt to connect the Raiders with the violence or shootings or deaths, I am greatly saddened, and take it personally, because almost every fan I have ever met has been generally an exceptional human being who would never partake in such nonsense. Unfortunately, these situations find us intertwined with these doings, and I'd like to say a few words to you, the Nation, that might affect a positive change for the better, and help us move beyond being involved in anything that hurts the game like last night did. Last night was a horrible day in football history. Hit the jump to read on... If you haven't heard of the situation that occurred last night, here's one LINK TO SHOOTINGS IN SF
Perhaps the most disturbing of the stories that unfolded last night, was the fact that even, via twitter from Paul Gutierrez, that one fight that ensued lasted so long, that both parties finally ended it themselves and went about their days. We attend games knowing that, like any event where tens of thousands attend, there will undoubtedly be an element of folks with an agenda that has little to do with enjoying football like most of us fans. There are also an even greater number of fans who enjoy bringing their families and small children to events in keeping with generations and generations of tradition, and the Black Hole and the O.co are certainly no exception. I am fairly certain that most 49er fans would agree.
I travel great lengths and sacrifice much to attend games every year, and this one will be no exception. While I have no plans to skip any in light of these events, I am discouraged that many families and folks who fear for their own safety will decide to stay away, and this does little to help out teams like both our Raiders and the 49ers, who are working hard to find their winning ways and to fill stadiums to support the teams and organizations that therein bring much needed revenues to their respective cities. While it is perhaps naive to believe that imploring the violence-prone to abstain in response to my pleas, I will still go ahead with the general message I hope spreads like wildfire across this world wide web: As devout fans of these teams and this game, we must do everything we can to facilitate authorities at games that work to ensure our safety and the livelihood of fans who, like me, look forward year round to participating in games and fan events, and that includes reaching out on occasion, and welcoming opposing fans despite the way we feel about their being opponents in games. The fact is, the situation is worsened when we find our teams on the losing end of battles, and we can tend to take our ill will out on fans of opposing teams, and that is inexcusable in every sense of the word.
I'd also like to say I have never really appreciated the shirts that promote F$%k the (insert opponent), or are generally provocative in nature in such ways. I also do not appreciate fans that incessantly scream out, "so and so sucks," constantly instead of rooting on their own teams. I admit, I have been occasionally guilty of doing this, but typically try to root on my own team instead of partaking in the childish form of fanaticism. I would ask that we all try to do the same at the very next opportunity we have, and whenever we are as fans, representatives of our local stadiums, teams, and organizations respectively.
One of the things that has always warmed my heart, is the fact I could always bring my wife, who is a fan of the New England Patriots, perhaps one of the most heated of rivals in the NFL for our Raiders, and though it is certain she will be chided and teased at the game, we all share beers, barbecues, and talk story with one another in good spirits in the parking lot, at the concession stands, and in our seats. I've also brought my brother to home games, who is a Kansas City Chiefs fan, and he even said he was amazed at how cool local fans were, and how they were able to partake in watching the game with rival fans and keep it mature and non-violent, despite how spirited discussions had become. I would like to think that this holds true for our stadium in Oakland, and I'm asking us all to do our own part in doing what is right when representing our teams in our home stadiums. In fact, I'd ask that of all NFL fans.
Last night was a horrible night for the sport of professional football, and a sad, sad day in its history. Let's all take part in making violence something that happens only on the field when we attend games, whether in our own house or on the road. When we are near a situation that seems to be escalating, we have tools at our own stadium to call in proper authorities to handle and escort wrongdoers out of the building, and to facilities when called for. We can also do our part to not feed an escalating situation, and maybe even extend a hand to a fellow human being who just so happens to have the same passion we do for their own team that we have for our Oakland Raiders. Let's all chip in, and help keep this game the great game it is to be a part of and participate in, for ourselves, for opposing fans, for our children, and for theirs alike. That is all. The next time you find yourself in a situation, do us all a favor, and just do the right thing.