Oakland Raiders: Are True Fandom And Loyalty A Thing Of The Past?

Aug 12, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Oakland Raiders fans cheer during the first half against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 12, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Oakland Raiders fans cheer during the first half against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports /

The Oakland Raiders have one of the most outspoken and passionate fanbases in all of sports – but is that true fandom and loyalty a thing of the past?

The Black Hole. Home of the most infamous and out-of-their-minds-passionate fans in all of sports. The Oakland Raiders have inspired generations of people to hoist the Silver and Black and declare their allegiance to the Nation. For many countless thousands, it’s a lifelong Commitment (to Excellence) to the Raider Nation. Cut them open and they’ll bleed Silver and Black. These people simply love them some Raiders.

But is that loyalty, is that passion, and devotion to a team becoming antiquated? Is that undying love for a team becoming a relic of a bygone era?

If you’re somebody like former scout turned writer/podcaster John Middlekauff, apparently it is.

In a series of Tweets today, Middlekauff stated his belief that loyalty – mostly among the younger generation – is dead. A thing of the past. That only the older generation lives and dies with their team – as the Nation does.

Now, there are always going to be those bandwagon, fair weather fans – for all teams in any sport. It’s just the nature of the beast. Some people will follow a certain player and adopt the team they wind up with – and switch teams when that player does. Fair enough.

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But I am of the belief that Middlekauff is dead wrong. For a whole lot of people out there, fandom of any particular team transcends the team itself. It’s about so much more than that – it just happens that their stories and the origins of their fandom coalesced around that team.

As a perhaps unintended counterpoint to Middlekauff’s opinion, because Oakland secured their first winning season in a long, long time, Bleacher Report writer Maurice Moton happened to invite people to Tweet about their memories the last time the Raiders were a winning franchise.

What I saw were a series of Tweets from fans of many ages and walks of life posting their memories from the last time the Raiders managed to post a record above .500 for the season. There were Baby Boomers, Gen X-ers and yes, even Millenials – the generation Middlekauff says he belongs to.

The Raiders fandom cut across all ages, sexes, colors, and creeds. Many shared their memories of their favorite players, most memorable plays, where they were and what they were doing the last time the Raiders were not just relevant, but good, how they came to be a part of the Nation, and what the team means to them.

Some of it was funny. Some of it was touching. And all of it flies in the face of Middlekauff’s opinion that fandom is a transient thing today and loyalty – true loyalty – is a thing of the past. Which just goes to show the dangers of presuming to speak for an entire generation.

Like I said earlier, there are always going to be fair weather fans. The Raiders bandwagon has certainly gotten a bit heavier this season. And yeah, some of those people jumping on the Silver and Black train are some of the same people who walked away, calling them garbage years ago. It is what it is. Every team is always going to have their share of those – “fans.”

But they’re not representative of the true fanbase. Many have been there through the glory years and many have been through the lean times. But do not doubt that the true fans have been with the team through thick and thin – and will continue to be until the end of days.

Now, earlier I said that for many, their devotion to the team transcends the team itself. Some might be wondering what I meant by that. Or maybe you weren’t. Either way, I’m going to explain myself.

For many of us, some of our fondest memories tied to the Raiders involve family. I know that for me, some of the best memories I have are of having Sunday barbecues and Raiders football with my own family. We used to go to the games together. Bonded with each other as well as other Raiders families – and all of this because of Raiders football.

And like a lot of folks, those memories are all I have left – but the spark that helped provide it, the Raiders, continues to burn brightly. It’s as if my devotion to the team keeps those memories alive and vibrant.

Oakland Raiders
Dec 24, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders fans hold signs that read “Stay in Oakland” in opposition of the Raiders potential move to Los Angeles during an NFL football game against the San Diego Chargers at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s not a transient fandom, and it’s not a “casual” or bandwagon fandom. It’s a fandom born out of family and tradition. And judging by what I’ve seen, it’s that way for a lot of people.

So, while I love my team, live and die with the Silver and Black, and have for a long time, my devotion to the team is tied to family. And given some of what I read today, that is true for a lot of people. It’s not just “casual” fans that make up the Raider Nation, as Middlekauff seems to suggest. It’s people with a genuine love and devotion for this team.

I have to wonder how many times he’s gone to the games, walked through the parking lot and talked with the Nation as they tailgated. I would suspect that he hasn’t – or at least, never deigned to speak with the fans. If he had, his opinion might be entirely different. It might be a little more – informed.

Opinions like Middlekauff’s aren’t unique, unfortunately. There are some who share his view. I think it’s a sad and cynical viewpoint and one that’s not even close to being accurate or representative of the large fanbases of most teams across all sports. I know there are a lot of people out there who feel the way I feel – loyalty and devotion to your team are alive, well, and still very much in fashion.

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I’d like to hear your thoughts though. Is Middlekauff right? Do you believe that loyalty and true fandom are dying things? Or do you agree with me, in that they are still alive and well? I’d also love for you to share your stories about your own entry into the Nation – what brought you to the Silver and Black? And when?

I don’t ordinarily do this sort of editorialized piece, but I’m genuinely curious to hear your thoughts on the subject. So please, step up, speak out, and be heard.