Oakland Raiders Fans Are Fiercely Loyal, But Blind


August 25, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Fans in the Black Hole cheer during action between the Oakland Raiders and the Detroit Lions in the fourth quarter at O.co Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Lions 31-20. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

“I’ll take 50 percent efficiency to get 100 percent loyalty,” said renowned filmmaker Samuel Goldwyn in Arthur Marx’s Goldwyn: The Man Behind the Myth.

If that doesn’t resemble the ideal of Oakland Raiders fans, nothing does.

The Raiders’ fanbase is fiercely supportive, through thick and thin (mostly thin), and there is always 100 percent loyalty behind a team that fails to provide the same level of efficiency or production on the field.

Criticize their team for their failure in the past decade? They turn on you for insulting the diva in the late Al Davis.

Question the current roster and the new regime? They call you a hater and pull out their “In Reggie We Trust” signs.

At some point, one must question the Raider Nation themselves, and wonder if this fanbase is so loyal to their team that they blindly have faith in a perennial loser, no matter what.

Perennial loser? Let me take you through the past 10 years of what can only be described as torture for Raiders supporters.

It began in 2002 with the infamous “Tuck Rule Game,” when the Raiders were robbed of a win and eliminated from the playoffs because the referees inexplicably ruled that Tom Brady’s hand was in a “throwing motion.”

It continued in 2003, when the team advanced to the Super Bowl, only to be destroyed by former head coach Jon Gruden’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In a cruel twist, Bill Callahan, who took over for Gruden that season, was accused of “sabotaging” the game by Tim Brown and other players, who alleged that Callahan had “disdain for the Raider organization,” and wanted them to lose.

If the allegations were true, Callahan would get his wish, because the Raiders would lose for the next decade. In his second season, he led Oakland to an abysmal 4-12 record, and infamously called them the “dumbest team in America” during this tirade:

That may have cast a spell on the Raiders, who would go on to have similar records under their next three head coaches.

The 2004 season saw the hiring of Norv Turner, and also saw a career-ending injury for Rich Gannon, the last decent quarterback to play for the Raiders (yes, it’s been nine years).

Desperate to build a winner, Davis traded a first-round pick and Napoleon Harris for star wide receiver Randy Moss, a trade that brought much optimism to Oakland.

Things didn’t go according to plan at all, as Moss spent just two seasons in Oakland filled with injuries and lackluster performance, perhaps unwillingness to play for a losing team. Meanwhile, the Raiders went 4-12 and 2-14 during those two years (2005, 2006).

Oh yeah, Turner was fired after 2005, and his replacement, Art Shell, was given the boot (again) after 2006.

Courtesy: Off The Record Sports

Enter 2007, and enter JaMarcus Russell, the biggest draft bust in the history of the NFL. Controversy brewed even before he was a Raider, as newly-hired head coach Lane Kiffin did not want to select the quarterback out of LSU with the first overall pick. As it turns out, Davis should probably have listened to Kiffin.

Lest we need to remind you of the horrible Russell-era, but the short summary is: he was overweight, he simply sucked and because of him, the Raiders endured two more losing seasons. And you know the pattern by now — Kiffin was fired midway through the 2008 campaign.

After another negative season under yet another head coach in Tom Cable, the Raiders finally broke the ice in 2010 with a .500 season. Yet the agony continued, as they became the first team in NFL history to go undefeated (6-0) within their division and miss the playoffs. Obviously, that didn’t sit too well with Davis, who pulled the plug on Cable despite him doing a hell of a job improving the team.

The next season, 2011, was probably the most disappointing and is still in the minds of fans across the Raider Nation. For one, Davis passed away, taking away a legendary icon in Oakland. Second, they could have made the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade.

Instead, they traded for Carson Palmer, lost four of their last five games after starting the season 7-4, and missed the playoffs because of a tiebreaker. And they fired Hue Jackson, another head coach who did a stellar job.

2012 was a step backward, and the beginning of yet another rebuild. New owner Mark Davis brought in a GM in McKenzie, who brought in his own head coach in Dennis Allen. Riddled by injuries and poor play throughout the season, the Raiders finished 4-12 and capped off a decade of disappointment.

So there you have it. A decade of unfortunate and unbelievable failure for a franchise whose motto was “Just Win, Baby.” Year-after-year of dismay, with underachieving players, rash firing of coaches, and just a horrid performance on the field.

At what point do fans take a look at reality, at the continued catastrophic shape of the franchise, and just put up their hands and yell, “ENOUGH!”.

When faced with this adversity, any other fanbase would do just that.

Sept. 16, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Oakland Raiders fans cheer during the second quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

But not this one. Not Raider Nation.

Instead, they cling to hope. They voice their support for the new regime, eager to see what McKenzie and Co. can accomplish. They forget about the past, the unspeakable horrors from the “Tuck Rule Game” to JaMarcus Russell. They wait six-plus hours in a parking lot for Charles Woodson to arrive, hoping for him to end his career where it all started. They believe that top draft pick D.J. Hayden will become a great cornerback, despite pundits who question the selection. They pour their faith into the 2013-2014 season, hoping that this is the year that leads them to destiny.

Yes, Raiders fans are fiercely loyal. Insanely loyal.

But providing 100 percent loyalty for 50 percent efficiency?

They have to be blind, right?