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Raiders relocation: The mourning after

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It’s been two days since the announcement was made that Raiders would be moving to Las Vegas. The shock of it all was softened somewhat by the reports leading up to it that it was expected to be approved, but even as it became increasingly inevitable, it was still a surreal moment when it actually happened.

At some point in the not-too-distant future, the Raiders will once again have the name Oakland stripped away and replaced. Once for Los Angeles. This time with Las Vegas.

How this move affects me personally and emotionally is complicated.

I grew up in Oregon. My first memories of the Raiders were of Super Bowl XVIII vs Washington. Which, of course, means they were already in Los Angeles, having relocated the first time in 1982.

It would be the Navy that eventually led me to Southern California – stationed in San Diego – but by that time the Raiders had already made their way back to Oakland.

I remember thinking ‘That feels right. Oakland is where they belong.’

A few years later I would join them in the Bay Area as well, just as the Rich Gannon years took off and the team returned to being a regular playoff team.

And again, it occurred to me, that it felt right. That’s where they belong.

As a native Portlandian and therefore a Trailblazer fan from birth, I know full well the place one’s beloved home team keeps in one’s heart. And therefore I can imagine the pain of loss. Even so, I am not the right person to tell this story.

For this story, I need the help of my late, great friend and colleague, Patrick Patterson.

Patrick was born and raised a Raiders fan in the East Bay. And you won’t find a person more knowledgeable about the history of the team than he was. The Raiders were his love, his joy, and his passion. And it led him to start the blog Thoughts From the Dark Side in 2005 so he would have a platform for his musings.

One of Patrick’s more memorable pieces, at least in my mind, was a three-part series he did titled ‘The Rise, Fall, and Future of the Oakland Raiders.’ It read like an intimate historical journey through the Raiders’ long history as only a fan with deep ties to the team could tell it. Here he describes the bond between the Raiders players and the fans in Oakland.

“The fans at the Oakland Coliseum were among the loudest and proudest of all fans. Oakland at the time was a tough, blue collar city, and the Raiders were a tough, blue collar team. They played hard and partied hard. It was well known that many of the players would party with the fans at the bars around the training camps in Santa Rosa. There was a synergy there.”

“Oakland fans were loud and rowdy, but even more so, they were intensely loyal to the Raiders. The players and fans were known to party together during training camp. There really was no dividing line between the players and the fans. It was one great big happy dysfunctional family. The Raiders were more than a team, they were an extension of the city itself. Then [Al] Davis moved the team. And for many of the once Raider faithful, the love they felt for the team turned to bitter hatred. A very strong bitterness ran through the fans. It was not necessarily directed at the team, but at Davis.”

The Raiders have experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows in their 57 years of existence. But for Patrick and those like him, there was no more painful memory than when the Raiders left for Los Angeles.

Of all the work Patrick put out – and he put out a LOT of work – there was no piece in which he took more pride than his Father’s Day tribute to his dad. In it, you see how the Raiders were their common bond. And all Patricks best, clearest childhood memories are of the times he and his dad attended games together.

“He took me to a game in 1981,” Patrick wrote of his father. “This time against the Chiefs, and the Raiders lost. The Raiders did a lot of that in ‘81 including being shut out three games in a row. That is the reason why I hate the Chiefs more than any other team. Little did I know at the time that would be the last Raider game that Dad and I would attend before the Raiders left town and broke my eight-year-old heart.”

“The remaining Raider memories [with my father] became a blur of games on TV.”

“By the time the Raiders returned home to Northern California, my dad had moved out of state. We have not watched a game together in close to two decades. However, whenever I am watching the Raiders whether at the HoT or on TV his words echo in the recesses of my head.

“The Oakland Raiders will always be a connection with Dad. Thank you, Dad, for showing me that "Real Men Wear Black" and that "Commitment to Excellence" really means something. Hopefully, you can journey back to California for a visit during the season so we can go to a game. I promise to be loud.”

They never did get to that game. Patrick passed unexpectedly on Thanksgiving morning 2010. I met Patrick’s father -- who had made the trip out to California – at Patrick’s memorial service. He showed me pictures of him and a young Patrick together, often at a game, and Patrick was usually wearing something with Oakland Raiders on it.

Patrick was that same crazy, Raiders loving kid at heart at 38 as he was at 8. And there are thousands of fans who share a similar story. Some of whom will soon live to see that child inside them weep as they watch their beloved team leave them. Many for the second time.