My parents split up in I was young, and I grew up moving between Oakland and Concord. I spent my early school years in Oakland, and went to Crocker Highlands, just up the hill from Lake Merritt. As such, I developed an allegiance with the City of Oakland at a young age, and naturally adopted their teams as my teams.
Growing up in Oakland in the early 70’s made the choice of teams very easy. I did not have parents that followed sports closely (although my mom did take me to a couple of A’s games) however. I also was really young, and did not understand the games, really. Without an elder to help make the connections, I never really had a chance to follow these sports closely. So, sadly, the true glory years of the Raiders and A’s happened right under my nose, and I did not really notice. I did not really notice much when the Raiders moved to LA for that matter. Although, I still called them my team.
I met a friend for life while going to High School in Concord. Well, actually, he was more like a brother from another mother. Perry (RIP) was a Raider fanatic. He used to say "I am not a Raider fan, I bleed Silver & Black". I have heard others say similar things since, but he said it first, and most passionately.
1986 was the year that Perry turned my casual support of the Raiders into a state of fanaticism. He had a request for his birthday. He wanted to go to a Raider game. I said pick the game, and I will drive. He chose the Raiders vs. Eagles, November 30th, 1986.
Talk about an intense, back and forth game. Raiders strike first in the 1st qtr, up 7. Eagles strike back, tied, followed by a punt return, missed PAT, Eagles up 6. Raiders come back with a field goal in the 2nd quarter, go into half time down 13-10. In the 3rd the Raiders score a TD, then the Eagles do, followed by the Raiders. 24-20 going into the 4th. The Eagles score a TD in the 4th, and it looks like then they are going to hang onto the lead till the end. But not so fast. Raiders drive down into field goal range and tie it up with 11 seconds to go. OVERTIME!!!!
The Raiders won the coin toss and got the ball first. From there, they systematically drove right down the field. As soon as we were in field goal range, I felt certain we were going to leave with a victory. Then they hand it off to Marcus Allen, and bam!!! Fumble!!!!! The Eagles safety picks it up and runs it back to almost the identical spot on the other side of the field. A couple of plays later, Cunningham runs it in on a QB sneak and the Eagles win. Total kick in the gut.
I remember walking out of the stadium behind Perry, he was just hanging his head down between his shoulder mapads as he walked. All of a sudden we hear from the top row the shouting of what looked like two grandmothers and their grandkids. They were yelling "yeah, Philadelphia Eagles!!!!" At that moment, the guy in the seat right next to where Perry was walking by jumps up to his feet and screams from the top of his lungs:
Perry cocked his head up in his direction and gives a nod, as if to say "Yeah, what he said", then he drops his head back down between his shoulder mapads, and keeps on walking. I spent the next several minutes bouncing from seat to seat on each side of the staircase as I tried, only barely successfully, to coordinate the act of walking and all out belly laugh. I guess you would have had to have been there, but it was CLASSIC!
The 600 or so mile drive home was a hard one after such a letdown. But in the end, we all agreed that game was one exiting motherfucker. I have been hooked ever since. Been through a boatload of ups and downs ever since. The early 90’s playoff runs, including the AFC Championship wipeout, the move back to Oakland, the crash of 95, the reemergence in 99 and the early 2000’s. The Tuck Rule, The Superbowl, the dismal performance of the last decade, the loss of Al, and now the re-emergence under Reggie, and the eventual loss to LV. I just could not root for another team. I would simply have to give up on football first. I am a Raider fan for life.