Football is upon us which means it was time again for the annual Raider Nation Celebration. For those who have never attended the event, what it's all about is right there in the name-- it is to celebrate the Raider Nation.
The event lasted three hours on Sunday. The setup was in the South parking lot of O.co coliseum and parking and admission was free. The centerpiece was the stage which kept fans entertained with various guest speakers, a DJ, Raiderettes, as well as the Raiders players and coaches as the big finale.
Around the perimeter were booths with Raider Legend autograph signings, pictures with the three Super Bowl trophies and one of the team's five AFC Championship trophies, a kids zone, Live 105 radio broadcast, on-site Raider Image, three food trucks. and more.
There were the usual super fans on hand and it was a fun, family friendly environment. One of the more interesting things I saw was the on-site Raider image selling authentic game worn jerseys of current star players for $100.
The players weren't to arrive until 2:30 so before that fans could shop, get autographs from the Raider Legends and Raiderettes, eat some food.
The host was Jeanette Thompson and JT the Brick from Behind the Shield. The over 7500 fans in attendance were treated to guest speakers such as Willie Brown, Jim Otto, and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. Mayor Quan was greeted with some boos but she reassured the crowd that she was doing everything in her power to keep the team in Oakland and when she asked if they wanted to keep their Raiders at home, she got the cheer she was hoping for.
After the speakers were done, Jeanette introduced the Raiderettes. There are 40 of them and she introduced them in groups of ten and they did a little dance number. At the end they all came out together to the "Autumn Wind" music.
After an intro by Raider GM Reggie McKenzie, it was time for the players to take the stage. They all came out in position groups and said a few words. There were three common themes in their words: 1. Get out to the coliseum to attend the games 2. You're the greatest fans in sports 3. We're gonna be a good team. So basically in a nutshell the message was the product on the field is gonna be worth buying tickets to see it live and that's what the greatest fans in the world do.
The emphasis, of course, being on the game at hand-- the preseason opener against the Cowboys Monday night.
There was some comedy to be had from this colorful group of characters. This was also the debut of the rookie haircuts. The worst/best of the bunch was Lucas Nix whose previously shaggy hairdo now had only patches in the front, over the ears, in the back and on right on top with an elastic band making it stick straight in the air. I will be posting pictures later today.
Richard Seymour got it started by making his signature X arms to the fans
"When I throw of the X, that's X rated. Let's put the kids to bed, let's put the children to sleep, it's time to play some football, baby. I got one question for you: Are you ready for some football?"
Then the defensive backs came out to music, doing a hopping synchronized dance. With guys like Michael Huff, Tyvon Branch, and Mike Mitchell among them, this is of little surprise. Huff took the mic to speak and playfully gloated about the greatness of the Raiders DB's.
"Training camp, obviously, the DB's we're the best group. We've been dominating. And I tell you, the last day at camp I hit D-Bey, he fumbled, he was on the ground about 17 minutes."
That was a joke Huff told in his blog on Raiders.com and it was funny. However, since then there have been a few Raider players to go down with scary injuries including Mike Goodson who was hauled away in an ambulance and 17 minutes on the field was not an exaggeration, then. The joke had one fan yell out "We don't wanna hear that, man." Can't say Raider fans don't know their team.
The wide receivers were asked who was the fastest and no one raised their hand. The answer is Jacoby Ford. DHB was speaking and he looked at Jacoby when the question was asked but they said they were all about silence this season while they let their talking be done on the field.
After each group spoke, they came down from the stage and signed autographs for fans. When the players were finished on stage, and while they continued to sign autographs, the coaches spoke. Al Saunders was introduced first as senior offensive assistant, then defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, and finall head coach Dennis Allen.
Allen has a very charismatic and cool demeanor and it is genuine. The fans recognize it and they were hanging on his every word. They cheered wildly when he came out, raised one arm and shouted "Wassup, Raider Nation?". Jeanette, feeling the energy, had him say it again and the crowd cheered even louder.
Afterward, JT the Brick asked him about how he felt about getting his first head coaching job with the Raiders.
"It's obviously a dream come true." Said Allen. " I'm Extremely excited about it. The fact that we get to go in front of the greatest fans in all the world, the Raider Nation. Get to do it right here in front of you in the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum against the Dallas Cowboys. What better way to start a new era."
"It's a great opportunity but I think truly, and more importantly, the guys that are out here signing autographs right now, they've been in training camp doing a great job working. We've worked extremely hard, we're gonna put a product on the field, Raider Nation, that you guys are gonna be proud of."
Hopefully Allen didn't make any O.co executives sore about him calling the coliseum the OAC. But considering the giant red sign reading "O.co Coliseum" that was high above in the backdrop of the stage was reminder enough.
The Raider Nation Celebration is an extremely popular event although, as Jim Otto says, when they first started it he could have fit everyone in attendance in the back of his truck. Over 7500 fans is a far cry from that.
And while the area had no trouble holding everyone, the lines for just about everything got very long. The worst of them was the food trucks lines. If you wanted to eat, you pretty much had to miss out on most everything else.
In the end, fans left with Raider merchandise, a ton of autographs, pictures with the trophies, and a whole lot of excitement about their favorite team.