Trick or treat depends on losses or wins

The 90th meeting between the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders will transpire this Sunday at Qualcomm. Much like the Red Sox vs. Yankees, the Bolts have been the nail that Oakland hammers. But things are changing as they split each of the last two seasons.

The Raiders had won eight of the previous nine prior to 2002 and lead the all-time series 55-32-2.

Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer, however, has owned the Raiders. He is a commanding 21-7 throughout his career against Oakland – an anvil to the spike.

But when the two team's face each other on Sunday, disregard what happened during previous years. This is a game that boils down to blood, sweat and tears. And perhaps a few more ghoulish costumes than usual.

"Back in the 80's I used to always watch the games and the Raiders used to always beat the Chargers," linebacker Donnie Edwards reflected. "I used to always hate that – the biggest rivalry too. I remember Marcus Allen was always jumping over the top and I was like, ‘someone just tackle that guy!' It goes back a long way."

The Chargers are taking a nonchalant approach to the Halloween game. They are not interested in the latest fashion attire that the Raider nation will sport. Face painting, for them, went out of style in the third grade.

"The fact that it is Halloween is not relevant to me," Schottenheimer said.

But the NFL thought it would be a big draw – perhaps for Raiders fans to dominate Qualcomm once again.

Instead, the Chargers petitioned the league to get the blackout date extended by a day. They wanted to move the last 3,000 tickets and call it their first sellout of the year. Even with an extra day, they may fall short. This is because the Chargers require that two other game tickets be purchased, a deterrent to the most loyal of Raider fans.

That brand of trickery – certainly fitting for Halloween – has given the team a sense that there may be more of a home crowd than they are used to for the annual game.

Yet getting fans to the game is something they are still trying to earn by putting a winning product on the field.

"My hope is we have a big crowd and they bring the advantage that a home crowd can bring," Schottenheimer said. "We have to earn that. A couple of year's back we were 6-1. I don't care who you are, you can beat if you are not prepared and don't play well.

"I think it will be decisively a pro-Chargers group of fans."

The twelfth man, so prevalent in other stadiums around the league remains a myth – similar to many of the ghost sightings around the world.

The reality is many players rally behind the home crowd. It is that extra pick me up when the grind is on. Watch Shaun Phillips do his somersault roll when he enters the field of play on kickoff coverage. Pump the crowd up and they will respond. The team will in turn put forth that extra effort – knowing they not only let their teammates down but the many who have paid top dollar to see them play.

"The loyal Chargers fans definitely come out to the game," quarterback Drew Brees said. "The more Chargers fans, the better for us. We want to feel that home field advantage. Lord knows that when we go up to their place, it is all Raiders fans. We want to see blue and gold so it is loud and obnoxious – just the way we like it at home."

And the extra day is to allow for the late bloomers – the ghosts that forget to say "Boo" until it is too late.

"I want the fans to be there," Edwards said. "We are doing our part to turn this organization around – start winning. Do your part as well and come out and support the team."

Win a couple more games and make them believe has been the resounding reply.

Denis Savage can be reached at denis@sandiegosports.net

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