An afternoon in Oakland's Black Hole—and a World Series prediction
It's Halloween inside the Oakland Raiders stadium, as it is at every Sunday home game. To my right, there's a cute woman dressed like some kind of pirate Wonder Woman princess. To my left, a grisly man with dreadlocks and a black top hat, silver face paint, and chains and skulls draping his shoulders. I'm in the “Black Hole,” or the notorious end-zone seats. It's actually not as disreputable and thug-like as people say. There are old-school fans wearing jerseys emblazoned with Raider greats like Alzado and Stabler. You know, Baby Boomers who've probably had the same haircut since 1974. There are even young kids. Plus, lots of hugs and friendly catching-up. No fights, no shankings.
The most violent moment is by the dude behind me, who gives really painful high-fives: The Raiders sneak in for a touchdown, their only one of the day, and the Hole blows, and this brick-house guy wants some skin, so I hold up my arm and he slams it so hard I worry it's going to rip from my shoulder. It's sore until halftime.
Earlier that day, the parking lot of the Oakland Raiders stadium appeared to be on fire, smoke trickling into the Sunday morning sky in a few dozen hot spots. It was 9 a.m., more than four hours until the kickoff of the game against the Arizona Cardinals. Our small two-door snuggled into a spot amid monster trucks and pop-up tents. It's cliché, but the scene—hundreds of tailgaters already!—really did have the feel of some post-apocalyptic Mad Max flea market.
The tailgaters directly across from us were pros: two large barbecues, three tables, five crock pots filled with chili and nacho dip, speakers that blasted Digital Underground and '70s funk, and even a generator and a TV to watch the morning NFL games. We looked decidedly amateur, what with our lone blue tent and mini-Weber 'cue.
The opening of AC/DC's “Hells Bells” rang a few cars down, and some young dudes wearing skeleton bandanas over their faces strolled by chanting “Raaaiderrrrs!” When people yell that, it's a cocky, who-gives-a-damn, creepy cackle. It's like they know they've been the worst team in the NFL for more than a dozen years, yet still take pride in shit-eating.
The Raiders play at the same stadium as the Oakland Athletics, and so I spent a lot of time during Sunday's game reflecting on the A's wasted season. To recap: They had the best record in baseball in July, but went on to choke it away. During this summer, I remember saying things like “Too bad the Giants are terrible this year, because an A's-Giants World Series would've been awesome.” In August, I also wrote in this paper: “Any self-respecting Giants fan (anyone?) knows their team is done.”
Gulp. I've many Giants-fan friends, and to them and the others I owe an apology. I'll also leave you with a prediction (not that you want me to prognosticate in your team's favor, what with my ignominious track record):
Giants in six.