After some successful ‘Crusades’ from our very own Keith “Crusader Raider” Smith and Kelly “Crossbones” Daggers Smith earlier in the season now came the time for my own journey across the pond to attend my very first Raider game (obviously outside of London). On Thursday I packed my bags, kissed the wife and son farewell for a couple weeks and headed off to the airport, next stop Oakland California! I couldn’t believe that after over 16 years of passingly supporting the team, not to mention 14 years of anguish, I was finally going to get the ultimate experience.
I was welcomed on a cold and wet thanksgiving in Oakland only to celebrate the holidays with a salad bowl and a few slices of turkey (it’s the holidays after all). Once I’d got my bearing I made sure by Friday afternoon I headed down to the infamous “Ricky’s Sports theatre and Grill” to meet up with some of the other travelling Silver & Black UK members and some old friends who made the trip back in 2013 from Oakland to London – Ken Webb and Randy Piplica. Ricky’s was a most amazing experience and a must-go for any Raider fan! The venue boasts some 90 screens showing all sports from around North America and the walls are decked in all kinds of fantastic sporting memorabilia, mainly Raiders though. Whilst perusing the cabinets I found some great pictures of “Crusader Raider” and even some great Silver & Black UK patches from London. I was sure to find Ricky Ricardo, the owner and founder, and gave him some fresh new Silver & Black UK pins and patches – he was a most awesome host and credit to his Commitment to Excellence over the years. If you visit Oakland, you must not miss out on Ricky’s!
Saturday came and went, I did some sightseeing across the bay in San Francisco and met up with a few of the other travelling UK fans again and headed into the bay to take in the sights at Alcatraz. However, it was time to get back to bed and ready for the main event the next day.
I’m not going to lie, I woke on Sunday morning like a kid on Christmas day. Quickly getting ready and onto the BART (Local public transport system) I headed the 2 stops down to the Coliseum, this is where things now went from exciting to exhilarating.
I traversed the notorious caged bridge toward the stadium. As I came clear of the bridge I was faced with huge towers of smoke rising and the sweet smell of Californian barbecue emanating from either side of the Coliseum, all this originating from rows upon rows of raucous fellow members of The Nation. The atmosphere was electric! I started off with Meeting up with Ken “Afro Desiac” Webb and joined him on his tailgate for a short while, I then headed over to “D Lot” where I bumped into our good friend Gorilla Rilla, after a bit of catch-up it was onto see Ben “Raider Pimp” Newsom. He welcomed me with a few shots of Fireball and local beers, not to mention the early spoils of his fantastic barbecue. Then it was round to B lot to catch-up with another welcoming friend Joey “Maniac” Seimas. Then Silver & Black UK official duties called and I was on to “La Familia Tailgate” with Mike Madrid and Johnny Yanez to participate in 66yards of shots on a board, fortunately I was not to drink all 66 yards, but a huge group shot. By this time the lights were coming on over the stadium and the hoard began to flock to the gates.
I cannot clearly put the atmosphere within the famed Oakland Alameda County Coliseum into words, nor being to describe the emotions felt as the bell tolled and the Raiders filed onto the field. The Coliseum was truly rocking, and the tension building. As they say the rest was history, the game was unbelievable start to finish, we had silenced (S)Cam Newtons Pussycats and we had earned our first winning season since 2002.
My first game, in Oakland! I saw old friends, made new friends and most importantly – WE GOT THE WIN! For now I am headed down to San Deigo to see some family, then Saturday I travel back up to experience it all again when we face off with the Bills
Raider Oli OUT!