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Into The Black Hole

Posted Nov 4, 2010

Meaningful football returns to one of the best rivalries in all of sports

Batteries, beer cans and one-fingered salutes; it’s all part of the Raider game day experience. The costumes that make up the black hole tend to get the majority of recognition, but it’s the arrival into Raider Nation that takes the cake.

“I can tell you this much, it’s not a civil crowd at all and I’m sure they probably appreciate that,” G Brian Waters said. “They’d probably take that as a compliment.”

Much like in Kansas City, Sunday’s in Oakland start in the parking lot. Past that, the similarities between the two sets of fans don’t run parallel. For many members of Raider Nation, “welcoming” the opposing team is just one part of the pre-game routine.

“You don’t even have to get off the bus at all (to experience Oakland),” Waters said.” I remember my first time in Oakland. We’re riding in the bus and I’m asleep going to the game, because it’s a nice long drive from the hotel we stayed in, then all of a sudden you hear all of this noise…all of this BOOMP, BOOMP, BOOMP, BOOMP. You look up and it’s people throwing batteries at the bus. 

“I just remember thinking to myself, ‘what did we just drive into?’ I thought we had just driven into hail because of all the people… and then everybody is shooting you the bird. I had never been in anything like it and it hasn’t changed. At least the parking lot atmosphere has been consistent over 11 years and I expect it to be the same come Sunday.”

While the pre-game festivities are charging along at full force, the intimidation factor inside the stadium is waning in Oakland. The Raiders are riding a local television blackout streak that extends into last season and all four of their home games have been blacked out in 2010. Last weekend, only 35,721 fans took in the live version of Oakland’s 33-3 dismantling of Seattle.

The spotty crowds are a bit of a surprise considering Oakland’s resurgence.

But this weekend may be different. The Chiefs are in town to continue one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports. Plus, Sunday’s game has the potential to play a major factor in the race for the AFC West crown. If there is any time for the Black Hole to re-ignite, it might as well be this weekend.

“For me, I’m pretty comfortable there, but for these young guys who have never been there before, it’s hard to describe it because I don’t think that there is a college atmosphere that you can compare it to,” Waters explained. “You try to tell them and then really they find out for themselves. When you’ve been there enough you know to stay out of the end zones, especially in the warm-ups. If you don’t want your mother to be talked about in a vulgar manner, you definitely stay away from the end zones.”

This series hasn’t been post-season relevant in years. The last time that Oakland entered November with even a .500 record was way back in 2002; which was the last year that the Raiders won the division. Likewise, Kansas City hasn’t had five wins by the first weekend in November since 2006; which was the last time that the Chiefs qualified for the playoffs.

Meaningful games are what Raider Week is supposed to be about, and this week should turn out to be quite the experience for Kansas City’s young crop of players.

“I don’t know much about it, but from watching SportsCenter every day they’ve been talking about how big this game is going to be with the rivalry and the past,” rookie S Kendrick Lewis said. “I’m looking forward to it. I’ve seen it (on TV) for many years watching Oakland and how their fans react to opposing teams. With the history that Kansas City has in Oakland, I know that it’s going to be even crazier.”

Historically speaking, Kansas City has been at home in Oakland. Despite an ugly overall record over the past handful of seasons, the Chiefs are currently riding a seven-game winning streak in the heart of Raider Nation. A win on Sunday would make Kansas City the first team to ever win eight consecutive road games in Oakland.

To do that, Kansas City’s veterans will aim to keep their younger teammates focused on the game that’s going on between the paint; not the one that’s happening behind the goal posts.

“The hardest part is not paying attention to all the fights that go on in the crowd,” Waters laughed.

The energy should be up this weekend, not only in the Black Hole, but for Chiefs fans watching across the country as well. If you’re part of the Chiefs faithful that plans on entering Oakland this Sunday, the players understand if you show your support without wearing red.

“A few years ago I had a couple of friends come to the game and I said to them, ‘I love y’all, but y’all don’t have to wear red. Don’t wear red,’” Waters remembered. “They were like, ‘well…we bought jerseys…’ I said, ‘for real, don’t wear red.’ So they wore blue.

“As the game went on, I guess another fan stood up and said, ‘I know there are a lot of undercover Chiefs fans out here and when we find you, we’re going to do something to you.’ My friends just slowly got up one-by-one and left the game. There are some brave souls out there that still wear Chiefs jerseys to the game.”

Being a Chiefs fan requires being a Raider Hater. That goes without saying. It always has and it always will. However, there is one area that both parties can agree upon…

This rivalry is much more fun when post-season implications are involved.

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