The Oakland Raiders recently played its final regular season game against the Denver Broncos on Sunday. I made the trip to Colorado to watch the “Silver and Black”, which nearly made an exciting come-from-behind victory.
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr tried to connect with rookie receiver Hunter Renfrow on a 2-point conversion pass attempt. But the ball was deflected by Broncos’ defensive lineman Shelby Harris for the win.
That’ll forever be known as the final play for the Oakland Raiders, which represented the blue collar town in the East Bay for 47 years (1960-81, 1995-2019).
Sure, they didn’t win the game but it’ll be a moment I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
It felt strange rooting for the Raiders in what I thought was going to be a hostile environment, especially because it’s an AFC West rivalry that goes back to 1960.
I got heckled a bit and heard plenty of people shout, “Go Broncos!” But for the most part, it was a great experience from the get-go.
My girlfriend, Marlene, and I began the trip on Friday with a flight from San Jose to Denver. It was my second time in Colorado but it was the first time I was in town to watch the Raiders play as the visiting team.
I felt the tension as soon as we got off the plane, receiving some mean stares from what seemed to be Broncos fans in disguise wearing airport uniforms. I wasn’t the only one who felt the “bad vibes,” as Marlene said she also noticed people were staring us down.
I wasn’t nervous, though. I’ve always liked the attention of having opposing fans booing me because I felt like it was a sign that they’re scared my team will beat theirs.
“I’m starting to like the attention, too,” Marlene said.
We paid no attention to them and we proceeded to check-in to our hotel, where we also ran into several Broncos fans along the way.
The good thing was we weren’t the only ones in town to watch the Raiders play. We happened to see plenty of members of the Raider Nation in town who came out to watch their team play.
That’s when I thought to myself, “I wonder how many Raiders fans from Watsonville or Santa Cruz County made the trip out here?”
Then I also wondered how many local fans are still willing to go to Las Vegas to watch a home game in a different state.
In 1995, the Raiders returned to Oakland to play their first game at the Coliseum. I went to plenty of games throughout the years, including some with longtime season ticket holders such as Art Sigala and his daughter, Alana.
Alana, 29, has been going to games for more than five years, while Art, 69, has been a season ticket holder for about 17 years.
Next season, the Raiders will play in their shiny new building, Allegiant Stadium, in Las Vegas. Alana said she has mixed emotions about her favorite NFL team leaving for Sin City.
“I’m sad they are leaving but excited for a new stadium,” she said. “The Oakland Coliseum needs a lot of upgrades.”
She’s not wrong because the Coliseum is a dump that needs a major overhaul. Art said it’s the best situation they were given.
“Oakland wasn’t gonna give them a new stadium” he said.
Art attended each home game in the 17 years as a season ticket holder. Alana said she went to mostly all of the home games except for one in each of the first three years.
Both of them spend about $100 combined for tailgating. But that doesn’t include the cost of the ticket and parking pass, which comes with the season ticket package if purchased.
I asked them what will they miss the most now that the Raiders are gone. Art said he’s going to miss the Oakland Coliseum no matter how beat up it is, while Alana said she’ll miss the atmosphere, tailgating and being with the “Nation.”
“The (Raider) Nation is a family,” Sigala said. “I’ve been to other stadiums and nothing has compared to a Raider tailgate.”
Watsonville native Joel Medrano has been a longtime season ticket holder as well. Most of the fans who’ve watched the games long enough will recognize him as the guy sitting in the Black Hole holding the large “D” sign with the Raiders logo in the middle.
Medrano, 39, currently lives in Columbus, Ohio but he’s made plenty of trips to Oakland to watch the Raiders in action.
He said it’s neat the Raiders are getting a new stadium but he added that he’s still a bit upset about the idea of calling Vegas their new home.
“I’m always gonna be a die-hard Raider fan ‘till I die, bro,” he said. “It just sucks that they’re leaving. It feels like a divorce, it hurts.”
I’ve never been a season ticket holder and probably don’t plan on being one unless I move to Las Vegas (which I can’t see myself doing anytime soon) or hit the lottery.
It was tough enough traveling to just a single game, especially with the expenses of a loding, food and the price of admission. Now imagine doing it for eight weekends of the year, which could include back-to-back home games.
Medrano said he’s unsure if he’ll continue to be a season ticket holder after next year’s big move. But he also mentioned he hasn’t completely ruled out the idea just yet.
“Who knows? Maybe in the future I’ll be a season ticket holder again in Vegas,” Medrano said. “Raiders for life, bro.”
Art said it all depends on his financial status but he will most likely continue to be a season ticket holder if everything goes according to plan.
Alana said she doesn’t plan on getting season tickets for Las Vegas, yet. She said the trip is going to be too difficult but she plans on trying to make it to at least one game a season.
“We are called a nation because we travel,” she said. “I love my team through the good, the bad and the ugly.”