One of the very strangest experiences I've ever had occurred on Sunday: I was an enemy -- a DEEPLY hated, despised, growled and sworn at enemy -- in the concrete confines of the place I until then called home, the Coliseum.
What brought this about? Colors. A different sport. I ventured into a sea of silver and black donning orange and blue. I knew what I was up against.
Mind you, I was not cocky. I averted eye contact. I kept my lips buttoned. I watched my P's, Q's, R's, S's and T's the whole time -- no small feat for a dyed-to-the-bone Bronco fan for nearly 30 years.
Truth be told, "it" started when I got on the BART, back at Rockridge. At first there were just a handful of Raiders fans. Every station closer -- MacArthur, 19th street, 12th street - the silver and black sea grew and the stares that came with them were harder.
I was first told by a man who worked for Kaiser that I was braved, then warned by him to be careful as he didn't want to see me later at his work. Most of the Raider Nation was passive aggressive -- comments like, "Brave man", "He's gonna get his" and "Raaaaaaaiders..." passed by like light jabs -- not meant to contact or draw blood, but rather sting by proximity. I smiled, shook my head a lot and bit on nothing.
My jobs on this day were simple:
A) Get into the game
C) Cheer (at a reasonable level) my beloved Broncos on to victory (because as any true fan knows it is his/her cheers IN PARTICULAR that make the difference between winning and losing).
We bought tickets off a scalper on the footbridge -- $71 face value for $50 apiece. Right on the 40 yard line, 17 rows up, Broncos sideline. Nice.
Standing in the crowd waiting to get padded down (which gets you comparable contact to a $20 lap dance, mind you), I found myself quickly engulfed by the Nation. Just behind us was the spot in the parking lot where just a little over a year ago we had our first tailgate for "Boys of Summer" (see related details at the bottom). Memories of the A's games that I grew up watching during the summers in the mid to late 80's were everywhere. The green and gold banners flap proudly. I'm home. I must be home...
"Watch your back today, son," a silver-painted face says, a mere 12 inches from my own.
I'm not home.
Stepping inside, I could hardly breathe. The energy was insane. I was booed like a Yankee fan in Fenway. I kept my head low and found my way to my beautiful seat. A couple of jackal Nation members tried to convince me I was in the wrong section. I bit for a moment, to my sheer embarassment. This was the one moment I was ready to let my tongue wag. Fortunately, I tucked it.
As for the game -- you can read about it somewhere else. Suffice to say, I left happy -- though I waited as long as I could to avoid the masses I was promised would be waiting for me outside. The threats ended up empty. A few Raider fans even apologized for the one or two who truly were abusive and vented the frustrations of Kerry Collins' performanc upon me.
Fair enough. I can empathize as "No mistake Jake" hasn't always been so.
Bottom line, the bark was much worse than the bite. However, in fairness, I didn't and won't be going anywhere near the black hole. The worst situation is a blowout -- which Sunday's game almost was -- as there's nothing of interest to watch on the field when the scoreboard is sucking your soul.
Weird as it was to be an enemy in my home stadium, it underlined something I already knew -- the A's really need their own stadium. The Coliseum is built for football -- now all it needs is a football team (I'll take the 15 yard penalty for that one).
The two month, 20,000 mile, 30 Major League Park father/son road trip made into a documentary, "Boys of Summer", screens Dec. 8th at 7:15P at Clif Bar in Berkeley.
100% of the proceeds from the sale of this film go to the National Parkinson Foundation and Michael J Fox Foundation.
Admission, which includes pizza, beer, the movie and a chance to bid on some great silent auction items INCLUDING A BARRY ZITO AUTOGRAPHED BASEBALL is $20 per person.
Tickets MUST be purchsed in advance.
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