On the surface, Raider Nation represents a population of fans from both Northern and Southern California. Al Davis, the team’s deceased founding owner, started his franchise in Oakland and then moved it to Los Angeles. After a failure to reach a new stadium deal with LA, he moved them back to Oakland. Through out his turbulent dealings with the NFL over the last half of his life, Davis never lost fans beyond any great measure, despite the relocation moves. He always made it very clear that the world was coming down on him and that no matter what he wouldn’t be pushed around. Al wouldn’t hate Commissioner Roger Goodell for the same reasons a growing percentage of football fans do today. The father of the Raiders despised the concept of a commissioner’s office. If you were in the position of anointed ruler for the National Football League, he hated you the same way Ice Cube hated the LAPD.
For San Diego Chargers fans, it doesn’t matter whether the Raiders are in Oakland or in LA. They’re the enemy. However, the distinction between the teams runs deeper than geography. San Diegans root for the Chargers because they’re a football team that plays in San Diego. That’s it. The team’s brand is basically, We play here and the excitement we provide is at times electric. For the Raiders, it’s something different. Location doesn’t really matter if you’re offering your fans a chance to adopt an idea that everyone on a certain level can be attracted to. I hated Al Davis, but I respect him even now more than living Chargers owner Dean Spanos.
While trying my best to engage with the 2015 incarnation of the Chargers, it’s hard to forget what is most likely on the horizon if they leave for LA. On Sunday the two teams will meet at Qualcomm for what is usually the most violent NFL matchup at any one location as far as arrest totals in the crowd. When these two approaches to fandom collide things get weird. Like in the Monday Night Pittsburgh game two weeks back, the stadium will likely be filled with opposing colors. It will be bikers and strippers and people who aspire to channel those archetypes through their football team. On the field, Chargers QB Philip Rivers will likely have a tough day because several of his skill player options are hurt. And like with the Steelers, he probably will experience trouble hearing on the field because of Raiders fans over populating the stadium. If the Chargers win, nobody will care because they should win. It’s the NFL and the Chargers are at home. Philip Rivers is more experienced than Oakland’s young QB David Carr and the Raiders have long been a rebuild project. If the Bolts blow this game, everyone-including locals- will blame the loss on the lack of support the Chargers fans have for their team.
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If Al Davis is the everlasting patriarch of the Raiders, Ice Cube is the sitting president of Raider Nation. He directed the flawed but fascinating ESPN 30 for 30 Documentary Straight Out of LA where the bulk of the movie surrounds a sit down interview with Al Davis and Cube face to face. They talk about toughness and perseverance and all the other cliché’s that built both of their brands. Ice Cube navigated music and film to become a boss and Davis went from coaching to owning one of the great products in the history of sports. In the film, Ice Cube makes it clear he wished the Raiders had stayed in his home town because they captured the spirit of LA. Al’s response was basically that the NFL screwed him over. At no point in the piece does Cube ever question Davis’ motives or express a decline in his love for the Raiders. Location doesn’t matter to him as a Raiders fan because he bought into the Al Davis code of how to exist in the world.
Ice Cube has since publicly expressed that LA doesn’t want the Chargers. I ride with Cube. If the Chargers and Raiders go to Carson and try to unite Southern California, the best case scenario for me would be to have nobody from San Diego follow them. I want LA to completely reject the LA Chargers for the LA Raiders. Since the release of the Carson2gether video and campaign, the reality has set in that both Dean Spanos, and Al’s son Mark Davis, could care less about rivalry or the people who need to exercise it twice a year. It’s hard to view the Raiders as anything more than a potential roommate, masquerading as another struggling, hard to evaluate team this early in the season. Is Oakland QB David Carr good? It doesn’t really matter. Philip Rivers and he could be using the same home locker room this time next year.
In the video above, Ice Cube’s son, O’Shea Jackson Jr., is a good example of how much this doesn’t really matter. He was three when the Raiders left LA. In fact, his Dad’s enthusiasm scared him enough to actually root for the Chargers. While his Dad blames himself for this happening, O’Shea Jr., promoting Straight Outta Compton, a film in which he plays his Dad at the genesis of his storied career, admits if the Raiders come back to LA he would totally be on board. I guess location doesn’t matter. The Raiders idea lives on while the Chargers don’t have one. My Dad moved from Oakland to San Diego and became a Chargers fan when he had me. They were here and they were electric.