One of the things that I have started to miss most out here in Exile is accessibility to watching my favorite sports teams. Most times you have to search out a way to watch your teams and occasionally a team comes to you. It is only on rare days, however, you get to see two of your teams play on the same day. This past Sunday was one of those days.
This weekend the Philadelphia Eagles were visiting Oakland Coliseum, home of the “Raider Nation”. For those of you unfamiliar with Raider fans they are rabid and loyal. What they are not, apparently, is plentiful. Well, the overall quality of the team hasn't helped this year and as of the morning of the game vs. the Eagles there were still seats available. After a little bit of arm twisting I convinced my buddy Jim to head up to see the game with me.
Arriving at the Coliseum I came to realize why the Oakland fans are so surly. Getting in and around the stadium is a absolute nightmare. When asking an attendant for some advice on where to park the best he could come up with was to point deeper into Oakland and say “You could park over there, but I wouldn't!” Of course the whole situation wasn't helped by the fact that “Disney Princesses on Ice” was letting out at the Oracle Arena right next door. This did lead to some interesting scenes in the parking lot as dozens of little girls dressed as Disney princesses traversed the asphalt surrounded by tailgaters that dressed like they gave fashion advice to Rob Zombie.
Once I finally got inside the stadium The Raiders fans really did live up to their reputation for creativity. The place was how I would imagine a circus on acid. The best I can do to describe the average fashion motif for the Nation is Rastafarian Voodoo Pirates. It is sort of expected to see some people in various types of getup at a football stadium. Here, however, there are people that looked like they stole their wardrobe from Gwar and the set of The Road Warrior. Even your average fan is decked in black and has some type of skull imprint on their clothes. The only people in the place not dressed as members of the Nation were the cheer leaders who are surprisingly attractive. I guess you don't have to live Oakland to be a cheerleader there!
So anyone that even casually follows sports knows that the Eagles blew the game. However, deep in Raider Nation, even when the opposite team is loosing, those not wearing black are targets. Keeping undercover is easy enough, just don't say anything. Easy enough that is until your wingman starts getting animated over some bad calls for the away team. Keeping Jim's protests under wraps was becoming more and more difficult but led to some comical moments where he had to turn some boos into mock cheers. Deciding to cut our losses before captain emotion blew our cover we split at the two minute warning. Good thing we did to, because as we were leaving Disney on Ice part two was getting set to start up. This time the little princesses in the parking lot would get to see the “Nation” extra drunk!
Hoping for better things on the next event in the day I tracked down a bar that was recommended to me as being Philly sports friendly. Rolling into 'Keysar' in SF was night and day from the cold Raider nation. Phillies tees and pinstripes were everywhere and “Beat LA” chants were prevalent. The only thing the place lacked was a seat for Jim and me. Lesser men might have seem this as a limitation. We saw this as an opportunity.
Scouting a table that only had one occupant I introduced myself to the friendly and attractive Christine and ordered a round for the table. That table quickly grew to include her sister and some other friends who coincidently were at the Raider game also. It was nice to sit with some fellow Philly expatriates because you don't have to worry about dumbing down the geography section of the get to know you quiz. Also while sitting 3000 miles away anybody from even remotely close to home is practically a neighbor.
Now for as bad as Jim was as a wingman at the Raiders game he was like Maverick during Phillies game time! As if flying by instinct Jim did all the hard work for me. In the course of three innings he managed to inform Christine that he was married, I was single, gainfully employed, that I wasn't gay (something important to establish in SF), yet still capable of being in a long term relationship. Not bad for a guy that has been out of the game for like 8 years!
So as the game progressed and the beer,wings and nachos progressed also. The Phillies march towards a game three win helped the damage done by the Raider nation to quickly faded. In the end the high fives of the Phillies Phans with some new friends at the end of the day was all it took to mix a slice of home with a slice of Northern California.