Jeff Riger: Raider Nation Isn’t That Tough, Or Is It?
I know in the grand scheme of things the crowd at the Oakland Coliseum probably won’t be a story line when the Lions battle the Raiders on Sunday afternoon. People would rather focus on how both teams can still make the playoffs and of course how Ndamukong Suh will perform after missing the last couple of games due to suspension. However, before the game is over, “Raider Nation” will do it’s best to make some form of impact to help guide their team to a win over Detroit. Whether it’s threatening Lions fans in the building within inches of their lives or just looking silly with black and silver face paint and spiked out shoulder pads “The Black Hole” will be out in full force!
Now I must admit that before this season, I thought it was the most dangerous thing in sports to go to Oakland wearing a non-Raider jersey. But now I feel different! I think “Raider Nation” is a fraud, it’s a joke, and it’s nowhere near as threatening as I once thought it to be.
You see, my brother Dave is a Broncos fan and made the trip to Oakland this season to watch his Denver team with Tim Tebow at the helm play the Raiders. I thought for sure he would die. He insisted on wearing Bronco gear and he seemed so at ease with his decision. I pled with him not to do it, he didn’t listen and, when I talked to him before game time, I was convinced that, that would be the last time I ever heard his voice. At least he was up to date on his life insurance I thought and was happy at least that I was a beneficiary.
But I was wrong!
In fact, not only did he live, he conquered Raider Nation. The Broncos won the game. And, at the end of things, Dave stood there proud with a horse on his chest and all of his limbs fully intact.
At that point, I thought “The Black Hole” was a joke! How could it be that my brother, a man who has maybe only thrown a punch twice in his life, both at me, had survived?
Well, I set out to find out! I took all my questions about “Raider Nation” to Allen Park where the Lions practice facility is located. I wanted to find out if Oakland was as scary for players and coaches as its reputation was for fans?
I started with the head coach Jim Schwartz. Schwartz spoke about Oakland and was the furthest thing from being afraid. “Whether fans are dressed up as gladiators or anything else really isn’t going to affect what happens on the field very much,” the coach said. But Schwartz has to talk to like that, if he shows fear then his players will too. So maybe the head coach wasn’t the right guy to go to.
So, I dug deeper. I went further. I was bound and determined for some players or coaches to tell me that I wasn’t wrong to believe that “Raider Nation” was a scary play.
Next up on my list was Kyle Vanden Bosch. KVB wears red contacts, he eats quarterbacks for breakfast. This is a guy that had neck surgery in the off-season and was back for training camp. KVB is tough and if he were to tell me that Oakland was scary, and then I would feel justified in being afraid for all those years. “It’s a hostile environment and once you get on the field and you’re playing, you don’t let fans be a distraction but I can see how especially for young players it could be a little intimidating” said KVB.
See that is a good quote, Vanden Bosch, a NFL vet can see how young players would be fearful, so it was ok that I had once been afraid. But I wasn’t done. I was once taught that for a good story you need three sources. So in honor of doing the bare minimum, something that I have lived my entire life by, I needed to get one more person to speak about “The Black Hole.” And who better to talk to, then Gunther Cunningham, a man who coached for the Raiders and in the AFC West for such a long time.
I asked Gunther how bad Raider fans really were. The defensive coordinator replied “I know a little bit about those guys, it’s an interesting place to play and I’m looking forward to going there and I know what’s going to happen the minute I walk on the field. Some of those fans are not going away. The only thing that I don’t like is that they call my family members a lot of bad names.” I then asked Cunningham if he ever yelled back at the unruly fans? “If you ever watch ESPN, there is quite a few shots of me yelling back. It was pretty intense between the Chiefs and Raiders but it seems like everywhere I have been it’s the same thing” Cunningham said.
So, let’s recap!
Schwartz and Cunningham, when talking about Raider fans don’t seem fazed at all however Vanden Bosch admitted that they are intimidating. So who do I believe?
I believe my brother! If this guy can survive “The Black Hole” then seriously how scary can it be? Raider fans better hope this blog never see the light of day because if word gets out that Dave Riger survived then nobody and I do mean nobody will ever be afraid of those silly little Raider fans again.