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After a few false alarms and even a 13-year trip to Los Angeles, the Raiders are finally saying farewell to Oakland. For good ... assuming no delays with the stadium in Las Vegas, of course.
Sunday will mark the end of an era. The Raiders will play their final home game in Oakland. They finish this season with two road games and then they’ll move to Las Vegas for the 2020 season.
The Raiders moved into the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on Sept. 18. 1966, after spending their first few seasons bouncing around a few stadiums. Four months after the Raiders started playing in the Coliseum, the first Super Bowl was played.
This is the end of an era, one that had plenty of odd moments and odd characters, and some special times. Here are the five things we’ll miss, or maybe not miss, about the Raiders in the Coliseum.
The stadium was ... something
There will be many wistful, romantic words said about the Raiders’ last game at the Coliseum. There are plenty of great memories.
And anyone who has spent time at the Coliseum itself, and isn’t blinded by Raiders fandom or nostalgia, will tell you how much the stadium itself was a dump. Or other colorful words that shouldn’t be repeated here.
“It was like sewage, garlic fries and cigarettes,” Jared Veldheer, former Raiders tackle, as he described the scent to the Denver Post last year when he was a member of the Denver Broncos.
There have been multiple sewage backups. There are no modern amenities. When the Raiders play their first game in Las Vegas, it will be their first time as the home team in a nice stadium. The Los Angeles Coliseum was no prize either.
But that was part of the charm. The Raiders might not seem like the Raiders with a plush, corporate stadium. The stadium was without any polish, and the Raiders had none either. It fit pretty well.
BONUS: Do you know all the names for the stadium?
No stadium, aside perhaps from the home of the Chicago White Sox, has had more forgettable corporate names. The Raiders’ stadium name was Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum for most of its life. Then it became basically one of those digital billboards that changes every 10 seconds.
Here are the corporate names: Network Associates Coliseum, McAfee Coliseum, Overstock.com Coliseum, O.co Coliseum and finally RingCentral Coliseum. If you got them all, you deserve an award.
The ‘Black Hole’ was one of a kind
The whole vibe in Las Vegas will be curious to watch. Some Raiders fans from California will make trips to Las Vegas regularly, but who knows where they’ll be seated. There will be high rollers and other big spenders to cater to. There will be some character after a while, but it won’t be the “Black Hole.”
No other NFL venue feels like a Halloween party, like Oakland does. The area in the south end zone has a reputation, and fans will let the opposing team hear some unkind words, but many of the regulars are doctors or lawyers or others who live routine lives during the week and wear spiked shoulder pads and face paint to Raiders home games. The scene in the parking lot outside is like a festival.
Allegiant Stadium, the Raiders’ new home in Las Vegas, will cost almost $1.9 billion. Like most new stadiums, it’s likely that it will feel a little sterile, at least for a while. Often, diehard fans get priced out of the premium seats in new, shiny stadiums. It’s probably safe to assume there won’t be a “Black Hole” in Las Vegas. Even if there is, it won’t be the same.
Two words: Baseball diamond
By 2019, it was a relic of a long-ago era. Oakland was the final venue that served both purposes, and since two-sport stadiums seem to be a thing of the past, it’s likely RingCentral Coliseum hosted the last NFL game played over a baseball diamond earlier this season.
No players will complain and it’s hard to be sentimental about NFL players running around where second base usually is, but for fans old enough to remember when places like Anaheim Stadium, Candlestick Park and Milwaukee County Stadium were part of the pro football scene, it’s a little sad we won’t see it again.
The memory of Al Davis
Some of Davis’ personnel mistakes late in his life became the butt of jokes. But make no mistake, Davis will always be the driving force behind the Oakland Raiders and one of the most influential people in NFL history.
The Raiders will try to keep the legacy alive. A street near the Las Vegas stadium will be Al Davis Way. There will be a memorial torch for Davis in Vegas. Still, it won’t be the same. Through the ups and downs, Davis was easily the figure most synonymous with the Oakland Raiders and the Coliseum too. There isn’t a real connection between Las Vegas and Davis, only a forced one. With the move out of Oakland, Davis’ legacy won’t be quite as strong anymore.
Oakland hosted some of the NFL’s great games, players
Any list of the NFL’s all-time greatest games has to include the “Sea of Hands.” The 1974 AFC divisional playoff game between the Miami Dolphins and Raiders was a classic back-and-forth affair at the Coliseum. The Raiders won it when Clarence Davis caught a touchdown pass among many defenders in the final seconds. In NFL Network’s 100 greatest games countdown this year “Sea of Hands” ranked No. 23, and that seems way too low.
There have been plenty of fun Raiders moments at the Coliseum — the famous “Heidi” game against the Jets is another classic — but one of the most enduring moments in NFL history was a performance by a Raiders opponent there. The day after his father’s death, Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre threw 399 yards and four touchdowns. The Raiders fans cheered Favre before the game, out of respect.
The Coliseum has always given games a familiar and unmistakeable backdrop. It also was home to plenty of legends. When you’re at a Raiders home game and see the names on all the throwback jerseys — Biletnikoff, Stabler, Woodson, Rice, Long, Brown — it’s a great reminder of the legends that called Oakland home.
The move to Las Vegas is a step forward for the Raiders in many ways, but we’re losing a bit of history along the way.
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