The Oakland Raiders are neither gone nor forgotten ... but they will be soon, with the NFL this week approving a move to Las Vegas.
That means that, for the second time since 1982, the Raiders surrender Oakland in a move that seems more like a heart transplant than a geographical relocation. Yes, they will continue playing in Oakland until a new stadium is ready, and, yes, Raiders' fans will continue to exist in Oakland after the Raiders don't. But neither the stadium nor the fans will be the same.
And neither will their team.
So what will the Raiders miss most about Oakland? Good question. I posed it to several persons in and around the franchise, and this is what they said:
TOM FLORES, former quarterback, assistant coach and head coach of the Raiders
Tom Flores is the only person in NFL history to win Super Bowls as a player (Super Bowl IV with the Chiefs), as an assistant coach (Super Bowl XI with the Raiders) and as a head coach (XV and XVIII with the Raiders). What's more, he's the first minority head coach in league history to win a Super Bowl, period. He played for the Raiders, he coached for them and now he makes calls for them -- as part of the Raiders Radio Network.
"What will they miss most? Game days in Oakland. From parking in Lot B and walking through the tailgaters all the way to the Westside Club/locker room or press box, whichever one was my destination for the last 40-plus years. I'll miss the many Game-Day experiences, each one different with its own Raider Nation touch."
AMY TRASK, CBS Sports analyst
Amy Trask first interned with the Raiders' legal department in 1983 and moved so far up the food chain that, by 1997, she was the club's Chief Executive. The first CEO of an NFL team, she recently completed her memoir, "You Negotiate Like a Girl" and can be seen on CBS and CBS Sports Network.
"The game-day experience and environment in Oakland is indescribably unique and spectacular. One has to experience -- to participate in -- that environment to truly grasp its mgnitude and understand just how different and special it is. It is goose-bumpy special from the moment one approaches the parking lot before the game until one leaves after the game. Presumably, the organization believes it can achieve another special environment elsewhere, and perhaps it can. I certainly hope for Raider Nation that it will. But, special or not, it will be different."
IRA MILLER, NFL analyst and syndicated columnist
Ira is an award-winning columnist who covered the San Francisco 49ers, then Bay Area pro football, for the San Francisco Chronicle for nearly three decades. He was chosen to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993 and currently works as a columnist for the SportsXchange.
"They cultivated, shall we say, a certain breed of fanatical fan, which they are not likely to be able to replicate somewhere else. They long ago established an aura of us-against-the world, perhaps more than any other franchise. Their fans seemed to love a 'certain' rough style of play, which continues to this day -- leading the league in penalties just about every year. They were always able to portray themselves as outcasts, a storyline that played well in a city like Oakland, which was a poor sister to San Francisco in the Bay Area. They lost that in Los Angeles, regained it in Oakland and now will lose it again in Las Vegas. Oakland is not as rough a city as the Raiders liked to portray it and as some of their fans represented it. But it did provide a certain mystique to the franchise which will be lost again in Las Vegas."
DAN FOUTS, Hall-of-Fame quarterback
Dan not only is a Hall-of-Fame player; he's a Hall-of-Fame voter, too. In his 15 pro seasons with the San Diego Chargers, Fouts met the Raiders twice a season -- once throwing for a career-best six touchdowns in a 55-21 rout at Oakland, his last start there. But that didn't happen often. He was 2-4 in Oakland, with barely more touchdown passes than interceptions, so Dan knows better than most how difficult it was to play there.
"This one is easy. The Raiders will miss the home advantage. As an opponent, you feel the presence of the Raider fans once you land in Oakland ... when you arrive at the stadium and try to drive through the parking lot ...when you get off the bus ... and, obviously, on the floor -- or should I say the swamp? -- of the stadium. The skin-crawling experience ceases once on the airplane heading south to warm and beautiful San Diego."
ART SPANDER, Bay Area columnist
Art has covered Bay Area sports for over 50 years and not only is an award-winning columnist but was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999. He currently works as a free-lance columnist for the San Francisco Examiner and holds the record (at least that we know of) for most consecutive Rose Bowls by a sportswriter. He's been to the last 64 -- initially as a vendor, with the last 54 as a writer-- and was just inducted into the game's Hall of Fame.
"What will the Raiders miss most? The small-town feeling in a large (7 million) metropolitan area. Oakland always has been the underdog, second city to San Francisco, and starting long ago ... then re-starting after their 1995 return ... it embraced the idea of the team as outsiders. 'The other side of the Bay' mentality persists (Herb Caen described Oakland, etc., as 'The Mysterious East Bay') with a lack of respect, perhaps like college basketball mid-majors.
I don't know if other teams have an unofficial headquarters like Ricky's in San Leandro, but just the fact that it's in another small (if adjacent) city tells you a lot. Parking-lot tailgates before games are like cultural exchanges -- every race and religion. Players in the past knew; I believe players of the present are aware.
I think the Al Davis 'Just win, baby' philosophy has seeped down. Just perfect that Jack Del Rio, the head coach, grew up in Hayward as a Raiders' fan. I'm not much for this 'Niners Nation' or 'Cowboys Nation' concept, but the idea began with the Raiders."
RON WOLF, Hall-of-Fame General Manager
Ron Wolf is a Hall-of-Fame GM who not only is widely credited with returning success -- and a Super Bowl -- to Green Bay after two decades of mediocre play but who played a significant personnel role with the Raiders from 1963 to 1975, then again from 1978 to 1990. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015 as part of the first-ever contributor class.
"The tradition and mystique of the organization. The amazing fans of the Silver and Black. It's an honor to be part of the legacy of an incredible team. Can they take that with them?"
MIKE ORNSTEIN, former senior Raiders administrator
Mike Ornstein is Mr. Raider, a guy who bleeds Silver and Black and knows everything about the team and those associated with it. A member of the front office when the Raiders were in L.A., Ornstein was primarily involved in public relations, marketing and promotion, though he served as an administrative assistant to then-Raiders coach John Madden in 1976-77.
"I would say without any doubt the thing the Raiders will miss the most is the unconditional love of the people in Oakland, no matter how the team is doing on the field. There is a form of ARROGANCE that really no other fan base has around the league. The Chiefs, Steelers, Saints all love their teams, but the Raiders have the PIRATE that is the Raiders ... and a die-hard fan base. They live and breed it from generation to generation. Yes, Vegas will have many former Oakland and L.A. fans go there, but there will never be another Black Hole. No other stadium in America is like this. Don't forget, they left once, and the fans still came back for the second time. Unconditional love."
NICK CANEPA, San Diego Union-Tribune columnist
Nick covered the Chargers -- first as a beat reporter, then as a columnist -- for nearly four decades, or until they moved to Los Angeles earlier this year. He witnessed the good, the bad and the Holy Roller in his years of Chargers-Raiders contests and, as a former Hall-of-Fame voter, is an ideal out-of-towner to weigh in on the subject.
"What the Raiders will miss most about Oakland:
- Its close proximity to San Francisco.
- Rickey's after games.
- Buttercup Café for breakfast.
- The Al LoCasale portrait in the stadium lobby.
- The view of the bay from San Quentin.
- The truly great hardcore Raiders fans who start tailgating in June.
BRUCE ALLEN, president, Washington Redskins
Bruce Allen joined the Raiders in 1995 as the team's senior executive to then-owner Al Davis and remained there until January, 2004, when he left for Tampa Bay. He was named the NFL's Executive of the Year in 2002.
"Certainly the players aren't going to miss paying state income taxes."
JERRY McDONALD, beat writer for Oakland Tribune/Bay Area Newspaper Group
Jerry has been covering the Raiders since 1995, or when they moved from Los Angeles to Oakland, and not only knows the team but the city they just divorced. He grew up in the area, and his father was a season-ticket holder who swore off the franchise when they left for L.A. in 1982.
"The Raiders' franchise may never get along with the city, but their hard-core fan base connected with a blue-collar area. Raider crowds have a bad reputation, largely undeserved. The beauty of the Raiders' fan base was in a diversity that crossed every social and economic line. The pre-game foods, the smells, the attitude was unlike any other in the NFL and won't be duplicated anywhere else. Players loved it and will miss it."