OAKLAND, Calif. — Charles Woodson lit the Al Davis Memorial Torch. Marshawn Lynch doled out tequila shots in the parking lot. Some fans cried discussing their memories of the team; others threw trash on the field in disgust.
Scenes from the Oakland Raiders’ last game at the Coliseum were as Oakland as it gets, and a fitting tribute to 60 muddled years of an on-again, off-again relationship.
An aura of nostalgia fell over the pregame tailgate. It was business as usual, but also, a time for saying goodbyes.
“Aside from my kids being born, this is the most emotional I’ve ever been,” Thomas “Grim Raider” Brannon, who says he’s attended every home game for the last eight seasons, told Yahoo Sports. “They’re ripping the heart out of our chest.”
Twenty-nine years into their second stint in Oakland, the Raiders amassed four playoff appearances, one of them a Super Bowl berth (a loss), and just six winning seasons. Ownership had one foot out the door for at least a decade, during which the team had seven different head coaches.
The Raider faithful remained strong through it all, including last season’s end-of-Oakland celebration that proved to be a false start.
“Up and down; we’re happy, we’re sad,” Danny Lluen, a four-year season ticket-holder, said. “But wherever they go, we’re going to follow them. Overall, we follow ‘the shield.’”
While many, like Lluen, still feel amicably about the franchise, others insist Sunday’s contest was their last as a supporter.
“I was pretty sad knowing that today, it’s over,” longtime fan Josue Lopez said. “In Vegas, it’s going to be a watered-down version of this. This can’t be duplicated anywhere. Oakland is the only place you can get what we’re getting today. ... This is it for me.”
‘I deserve Mark Davis’: Ownership offers little at last game
After decades spent cultivating an embattled relationship with the city, Raiders ownership didn’t do much in perhaps the only time its presence would have been appreciated.
Letty Drabert, a season ticket-holder for 13 years, was moved to tears during halftime as the Raiders honored Hall of Fame players. But it wasn’t enough, she said.
“I feel like I deserved — like everybody else in this stadium — for Mark Davis to come on the field,” she said, her voice quivering.
“I deserve Mark Davis, anywhere in this coliseum, to get on that microphone and thank all of these fans for being loyal for all of the horrible years that we have still repeatedly paid for tickets to be here and support the team that we love so much, that makes them a lot of money,” Drabert said.
Regardless, she’s already secured her season tickets for Las Vegas. And Davis isn’t one to care much about optics, anyway.
Despite being a very wealthy person, tact is something Mark Davis does not possess, nor can he purchase it pic.twitter.com/Kp3OPmSf9B— Sean Cunningham (@SeanCunningham) December 16, 2019
Raiders gave ‘everything,’ wanted better for fans
Players and team personnel who were on the field had mixed emotions. When Derek Carr headed to the Black Hole to thank longtime supporters after the final whistle, he was greeted by a chorus of emphatic boos.
He laughed it off: “What’s new with our crowd? Trust me, it’s not under my skin.”
The six-year Oakland veteran watched in the fourth quarter Sunday as his once 13-point lead slipped away. Due to a series of questionable decisions by both the Raiders and referees, he closed out his time in Oakland unable to answer when the Jaguars went on a 17-point run.
Carr said it hurt to lose this one, but only so much.
“Right now, I just want to see my family,” he said. “Yeah, you miss it; yeah, you’ve got a lot of memories here and things like that, but we had a run here way longer than I’ve been here. The Oakland Raiders have been here, so you think about all the players that you got to wear the same jersey as. … It will be something that you have in the memory banks, but it’s life, and you just keep going.”
Rookie DE Clelin Ferrell was among the other few players who braved a visit to the Black Hole. He gave fans the jersey off his back — a physical representation of giving fans everything he had, he said — as well as his game-worn cleats.
Raiders’ Clelin Ferrell gives away his cleats and the jersey off his back. pic.twitter.com/6LJ3jeVuYF— Torrey Hart (@torreyhart) December 16, 2019
“I just felt like they’ve been through so much for us,” Ferrell said. “I just wanted to let them know I wanted to give them everything, because it was a tough loss for them. … No matter the struggles they’re going through in their life, seeing us win today would have put on a lot of smiles, or gave a lot of people hope today.”
Fellow rookie Josh Jacobs, a bright spot amid another bleak season, tweeted that he “only played for the city.”
I only played for the city sorry we fell short— Josh Jacobs (@iAM_JoshJacobs) December 16, 2019
Head coach Jon Gruden, two years into his second stint in Oakland, felt similarly.
“I’d like to say we could’ve sent the Raiders fans off with a lot better finish than that,” Gruden said to open his press conference. “I really apologize that we weren’t able to deliver a victory.”
“It’s not really the result today [that matters]. It’s the results of the Raiders over the years. It’s the Oakland Raiders,” he added.
And so the Raiders, now a paltry 6-8 on the year, move on from Oakland for two more meaningless games without having proper closure, or really, catharsis. You couldn’t have scripted a more Raiders ending.
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