Pulling off back to back NFL games in one day is no small achievement, and in order to get
to Oakland in time for the Sunday night game of the week, we had to leave 3Com early to
beat the rush, take a preplanned route down the side streets which we had rehearsed a
day earlier to find our way to the BART station, get on the BART train, and then enjoy the
ride to Oakland which takes about 45 minutes. We stepped off the train 35 minutes before
kickoff, and there in the distance from the station loomed the soaring Coliseum, home to
the Oakland Raiders and the Oakland Athletics.
To get to the stadium you walk off the train and cross a lengthy pedestrian overpass which
takes you through some of the most awful cityscape that California has to offer - cement
plants, construction storage yards... eccchh! Quite a contrast from the sleek and modern
BART station which we just departed. But once you cross the bridge and you arrive at the
stadium, you are overwhelmed by the giant mural hanging the entire length of the building,
with the Raiders steely logo and the slogan "Commitment to Excellence". Network
Associates Coliseum has been the home of the Raiders for their entire existence, save for
the dozen or so years when they moved to Los Angeles (people around these parts don't
like to talk about that). In order to facilitate the team's return for the 1995 season,
extensive renovations were performed, including the reconstruction of one entire sideline
to accommodate a club section and 2 levels of suites. The other side of the stadium retains
its classic horseshoe configuration, which allows the accomodation of the baseball field.
What makes this stadium experience so unique has nothing to do with the stadium itself -
the building is ordinary, has the basic amenities and that's about it. But it is RAIDERFAN
which makes Network Associates Coliseum absolutely electric - Let us describe Raiderfan -
he is loud, he swills his beer, he paints his face silver and black, and he makes more noise
than at any other venue in the NFL that we been to so far (sorry Kansas City..sure you call
yourself "the loudest stadium in the NFL, but there are those who talk the talk and others
who walk the walk). Nevermind walking into this building with the opposing team's colors -
we were wearing Sabres jackets, and on the way into the building we got glares and dirty
looks, as if to say "who are you people? state your business here! why aren't you wearing
Raiders gear?" (Yes we did explain that we were tourists and yes we were cheering for the
Raiders, so we got the nod.)
Once we got to our seats, we got little chance to sit - everyone stood.. for the whole game!
It was noisy, rambunctious, and the atmosphere right from the player introductions was
absolutely electric! We were amazed to learn, though, that the Raiders have a hard time
selling out all their games, and there is still some lingering bitterness among the faithful
over the LA thing.
As we said earlier, the stadium itself is average - all new kelly green seats with cupholders,
two jumbotrons in opposite corners of the stadium, and the music they played all night was
the stuff they used on those old NFL films reels. They do very little in the way of electronic
cheerleading or cutesy videos - they don't have to!
The teriyaki vendor was a nice touch, but otherwise we were amazed at the quality and
diversity of food choices. Also, there was a Raiders merchandise post every other section
with a great variety of souvenirs. There was a contrast in the concourses - in the older part
the concourse was narrow (albeit with a view of the field) while the new section was mega
As in San Francisco, we were stunned to see no permanent commemoratives to their icons
or their world championships. During a TV timeout they did scroll all the Raiders greats in
the Hall of Fame, but that is about it. There was an exhibit in the new section listing their
charter PSL holders.
In San Jose we saw all the high tech advertising on the panels - there it was ads from LSI
Logic, Cisco Systems and PMC Sierra... here in Oakland the largest ad panel was from
"Pipefitters Local 350". Read the ads and you get a total feel for the community that
surrounds it - in San Jose it is technology and the internet; in San Francisco it is the
marvelous cultural and ethnic diversity; and in Oakland it is all grit and blue collar.
Like most stadiums today Network Associates Coliseum is a non smoking facility. While
touring the stadium we came across the familiar acrid smell of cannabis in several spots. At
first we were surprised, but then we realized that this is California and the words "for
medicinal purposes only" seems to be a regular ballot initiative. So we will give Raiderfan
the benefit of the doubt and assume there were several cases of sniffles, stubbed toes
and assorted ailments in abundance on this evening!
So that is about it... Oakland won on this night, and secured their first playoff appearance in
Oakland in 2 decades... head coach John Gruden got a gatorade shower, and we departed
feeling that all was well with the world if all was well in Oakland.
Food and team store 8
Scoreboard and electronics 4
Fan support 6
Location and neighborhood 5
Banners and history 2
In game entertainment 10
Concourses/fan comfort 4
Bonus: Tailgate scene 2, "Black Hole" 2, Raiderfan 2