My First trip to the "Black Hole"

What a difference a week makes. Last week I was in the pleasant confines of Arrowhead stadium, with nice Midwestern folks and decent facilities. But this week my season long journey took me to Oakland where I experienced first hand the people who comprise the place knows as the 'Black Hole.'

Even in prior trips to St. Louis and Minneapolis I was greeted with friendly personnel from security to stadium workers. The fans in those cities, while showing their loyalty by cheering for their team, were mostly good-natured and showed good sportsmanship. Not in Oakland.

I should have gotten a clue when the radio pre-game hosts shared their most "hated Chiefs game moments". Walking through the parking lot on the way to the stadium reminded me more of an episode of HBO's series "Oz" rather than the pre-game environment of a football game. Occasionally I saw some food, but no grilling, these people must not be aware of how to properly tailgate at NFL games. There were no people tossing a football around, in fact, I never saw a football. You wouldn't want to take your pre-teen kids to this ball game.

That opinion must be shared by these people because I didn't see many kids….or old people. They all stayed home, and I was sort of wishing I had. Based on the spelling on some of the anti-Chiefs shirts, I'm glad there weren't many kids. Football games in Oakland should be rated "R" and you should have to be 17 years old to gain admittance.

At Arrowhead the smell is barbeque, and the sounds are of Lenny, Mitch, Grigsby and Gretz. Once I left my rental car there was lots of noise, but none of it had anything to do with football. Now I know why Chiefs fans are the most knowledgeable. This didn't look, smell, and most of all, it didn't feel like a football game.

Singer Eddie Money, who is from the area, sang the National Anthem and during the song, four jets from the California Air National Guard flew over the stadium. Money blurted out "I love this country" between stanzas. Money meant well, but my feeling is you shouldn't interrupt out National Anthem, not even to say something you regard as patriotic, it seems demeaning. The crowd applauded, but I didn't get that sense of pride for my country as I do from fly-overs in other cities. As the Raiders took the field, "ACDC" blasted over the speakers, which was milder than the rap tunes that had been blasted with during warm-ups.

I don't have any problem with rap music in most settings, but this is the wrong crowd to incite with lyrics that condone violence. It's like throwing gas on a fire, and by kick-off at 5:38 pacific time, most of this crowd was lit.

There had to have been some changes in the three-deep line-ups for the Raiders, but they weren't released to the media. We were lucky to get a pre-game meal, such as it was, much less line-up updates… it just was too much to ask of this organization. They just do things differently here. "Don't expect to be treated like you are everywhere else, rookie, you are in Oakland now, just be glad if you get out without being injured", a veteran reporter warned me.

I walked out the back door of the press box and strolled through the crowd just before halftime. It was an interesting study of human behavior, to say the least. Raider fans seem to me at least to be very hard to please. They turned on their quarterback, Kerry Collins, with his first incompletion. It's as if many of them have missed the point.

It's a good thing to have fun, to get caught up in the excitement of the game, to enjoy the rivalry, but that doesn't mean throwing batteries at opposing players or setting fire to cars in the parking lot. There is a lot of fun to be had in just appreciating the effort of the players of both teams, and getting caught up in the spirit of competition is an excellent escape from routine.

It's hard not to get the impression that those feelings are way too innocent for many of these fans, and I can't help feeling that a lot of the blame for that comes from the very top of this organization.

If this environment ever makes its dreary way to Kansas City for a home game, then I will retire. How appropriate that the team color is black…forget the silver.

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