Unfortunately sometimes real life interferes with sport. By this I mean, sometimes you lease an apartment less than seventy two hours before you have to move out of your current residence; thereby ensuring a whirlwind three days of packing, moving, cleaning, gnashing of teeth, internet withdrawal and worst of all…no time to watch sports. And all the while you have to work stone cold sober eight hours a days behind a bar, it’s a wonder the California Department of Mental Health hasn’t caught up with this hypothetical schmuck (yes, yes I am the hypothetical schmuck).
Amidst all this domestic chaos I received two tickets to the Oakland Raiders first home game of the 2011 season with relief and enthusiam, as if God himself had finally thrown me a bone. We would be playing the New York Jets, undefeated in their first two games and featuring Mark Sanchez in his first visit back to the Colosseum since he snuck in that hot dog on the sideline two years ago.
Occasionally someone will tell you that you just haven’t lived until you’ve done such and such activity. You haven’t lived until you’ve eaten a baguette and cheese while completely destitute under the Eiffel Tower. Or, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen herds of zebras storming across the plains of Africa. Or, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen the Blue Mosque. Well, in my experience, you haven’t lived until you’ve rocked up to The Coliseum on opening day to see the mother fucking Oakland Raiders.
A year ago, as the Raiders opened last season against the St. Louis Rams, Mei and I parted ways with our friends (they had the VIP Hennessy Black passes I scored this year) and got in line with the common folk. Prior to this moment my American sports experience had been limited to the Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants, Asheville Tourists, Citadel Bulldogs football team, and a minor league hockey team from Asheville. The only experience that could be remotely described as frightening was the minor league hockey game, due simply to how incredibly intoxicated the entire crowd (other than my father, brother and myself) were.
The Raiders experience, simply put, will scare the living shit out of you. And then, in some sick sadistic perversion, will sink its hooks into you and you’ll never be the same. But for those first few moments in line, tossed around like a single drop in a massive drunken ocean of black and silver, you have no idea what planet you just landed on. An attendant in a tower raps “ladies to the left, fellas to the right” to prepare you for the upcoming security search but is interrupted with an alarming frequency by the blood curling, drawn out cry of RRRRRRAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIII-DERS!!!!! Make no mistake, this crowd is here for a battle.
Sunday’s game couldn’t have kicked off better for the Raiders as they strolled to a touchdown on their first possession. But after that good start both the Raiders and the Raider Nation settled into a lull as the Jets began to dominate. Time after time the home team failed to get a first down with the crowd left unusually subdued. But just as the first half looked written off Darren McFadden came up with a brilliant seventy yard run touchdown four minute before the interval. Then, with three seconds left, Sebastian Janikowski kicked in a fifty four yard field goal.
The half time piss break at the Coliseum provides another experience not to be missed. You feel as though mayhem and chaos could break out at any moment. Its scary enough to stand near a fan of the visiting team, let alone actually be a fan of the visiting team. With weedsmoke filling the stifled bathrooms, you might notice some random fan, unable to wait for a urinal, relieving himself on a wall. Eventually a cop will barge his way in, instructing the offender, “Put your penis back in your pants.” Thankfully everyone’s in a good mood and there’s no aggro. In fact it all feels like a scene from kindergarden.
As the second half began I hoped we would seen a reversal of the previous week in Buffalo. There the Raiders dominated the first half before withering away in the later stages of the game. Yet for most of the third quarter the two sides remain in stalemate. During the lull my guest and I, distracted by the ungodly amount of peroxide and boob jobs on display in the Club Level decided to rebrand the Raiders motto. So long “Commitment to Excellence” and hello to “Raiders – Where the Titties Be At”. Slap that on a baby bib and see how many you sell.
But just as our attention diverted off the field, the Raiders caught a shift in momentum. From the fifty yard line, with just over a minute left in the quarter, McFadden couldn’t find Jason Campbell for the quarter back option and instead ran twenty eight yards. The very next play the Raiders called a reverse and rookie Denarious Moore delivered another big run and dove in just across the touchline to take the lead. It just got better and better for the home team after the Jets dropped the ensuing kick off for the Raiders to recover. Two plays later the lead extended to two touchdowns.
The Jets did their best to make a game of it in the last quarter, but their best just wasn’t good enough. For a team that prides themselves on physical defense they had been decimated. In fact the Jets allowed more rushing yards than in any game under their coach Rex Ryan. McFadden alone got one hundred and seventy one yards with nineteen carries.
So an opening home game victory. The Raider Nation filled with hope, renewed faith, and joy. But most importantly, in these opening games, we’ve been entertained. I had my reservations about this season after all the staff and personel changes over the summer (not to mention the four preseason defeats), but the team has proved my doubts wrong. We might not be ready to make the jump to the playoffs, but hell, at least the Raiders will keep life interesting.