As NFL training camps kick off this week (Veterans report for Raider Nation on July 28), and fans from all over the country make trips to see their teams prepare for a new season, I got to thinking: What defines a fan?
The Journey Of NFL Fandom: Raider Nation Edition
I’ve heard things like geographical location, a family tie to a team (a relative on the roster or staff), a favorite player, or simply “being born into it” as reasons for pledging allegiance to one franchise over the next.
This is the starting point of an unconditional love that, in most cases, lasts a life time. There is a small section of the NFL fan base, however, that has left one squad for another, and the reasons for such behavior are just as varied as the ones responsible for choosing a team in the first place.
I have been a Raider fan my entire life. Through the ups and downs, through the good times and the bad, I have always been a proud citizen of Raider Nation.
From Oakland to Los Angeles, and back, I have been there. In a few years, they will leave my beloved Bay Area once more for the bright lights of Las Vegas, and I will be there. To me, the city in which they play means very little, it’s the team and their history that matters.
I can remember my first Raider game, it was a pre-season game at the Oakland Coliseum against their former SoCal neighbors, the Rams. It was the Raiders first game back in Oakland since leaving for Los Angeles in 1982, and I couldn’t wait.
On the drive up from San Jose, my dad handed me his old Los Angeles Raiders hat and a knife, he wanted me to remove the “Angeles” portion of Los Angeles so the hat read “Los Raiders”, I was happy to oblige.
When we arrived at the Coliseum the atmosphere was electric. There were people everywhere, every one of them dressed in Silver and Black. The city was in the midst of welcoming back their team; the NFL had returned to Oakland.
During the game I watched my old man yuck it up with fellow members of the Raider Nation, and I watched a man in a Steve Young jersey get nachos and beer thrown on him from the third deck, it was amazing.
That was my moment. The moment when I transitioned from casual spectator to fan. It’s a title that many claim, but few understand.
What It Means To Be A Fan
A fan isn’t the guy or gal who buys all the jerseys or paints themselves from head to toe (some do, however). A fan is someone who stands by their team through it all. After a decade and a half of the Raiders being the joke of the NFL, I’m still here.
When the team moves to Vegas in a few years, they’ll still be wearing the Silver and Black, and the name on the program will still read Raiders.
And if they fail to win a Super Bowl in my life time, so be it; I’m a fan.
So as training camps kick off this week, and spectators line the sponsor clad railings with the hopes of meeting their favorite player, remember why you love the game. Try and recall the day you pledged your unwavering allegiance to something much bigger than yourself—for better or worse—because it was in that moment that you became a fan.