Before this season gets into full swing, I have one PSA to deliver before the next tailgate or snap of the ball: there is only ONE nation in the NFL and that is the Raider Nation. Yes ladies and gentleman you heard me correct, the Oakland Raiders are the only football fans in America and around the World who can use this surname and serve it’s due diligence. Now of course there is not some binding, legal, constitutional amendment stating this to be the law of the land, so I will stop you smartasses from going down that predictable rebuttal road. But in the court of fandom, of sports passion, of NFL lore, this truth is absolute and yet I witness it being ravaged daily, thus poisoning the very essence of the Oakland Raiders’ rebellious history and nature.
Log onto your computer or turn on your smart phone and you will see social media bloom with fans across the NFL landscape using the nation surname so damn casually it is almost as promiscuous. To be clear, sports fandom is not a busty, vapid, Marina District blonde who during San Francisco’s Fleet Week, finds herself catching the #43 MUNI line home at 9 in the morning still wearing her six-inch pumps from the night before. However, every day I see NFL fans treading this walk of shame. Colts Nation, posts one fan clad in an Andrew Luck jersey, eager to see how many likes a “selfie” picture receives. Browns Nation, professes a group of Cleveland fans before realizing that even the people of Jonestown had a more exciting communal experience than the 3 hours they spent at FirstEnergy Stadium. Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin yelled Steelers Nation after winning Super Bowl XLIII amid a throng of twisting and twirling Terrible Towels. All of this nonsense leads me to ask one thing for all the NFL fans out there, what the hell happened to originality?
Some of you throw the nation surname like a cute hashtag flying through the sky, carefree and omnipotent, knowing damn well that no one outside of your own stadium, city, or state gives a crap about your team. All of you fans in Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Houston, and Tennessee who make up the AFC South are perhaps the most poignant offenders in this regard. Yet this is not even the saddest part of the NFL’s “Nation” epidemic.
When the Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers, and Pittsburgh Steelers personnel and fans throw on nation after their name, be it online or in the flesh, it is an absolute embarrassment to that team’s brand and culture. All three proud franchises have a cache of Super Bowl rings, Hall of Famers, and widespread recognition. Cowboys fans, please do no try to corral your followers by throwing the word nation underneath the star. You are referred to as “America’s Team,” own it. 49er fans, if you want to be called “9er Empire” instead of the whine and cheese indulging whiners, own the Empire moniker. Steelers fans, we all know that you guys travel well and infest stadiums across this country with a swarm of black and yellow, so please, stick to Steelers Country and embrace it. How pathetic is it that the league’s most successful franchises in terms of Super Bowl victories must resort to stealing from a team whom they vilify. The Steelers in particular are terrible offenders because of the historic, NFL defining, rivalry shared between Oakland and Pittsburgh.
When the Raiders started to stamp themselves as a force in the NFL and recognizable fan base in the 1970s and 80s, through the brutish nature of the team, the success they wielded year after year, and the iconic colors of the shield, the Nation was conceived. Add the element of moving to Los Angeles and the mystique of the team grew. People embraced the outlaw persona the team represented on the field and in their revolutionary owner Al Davis. While Al Davis’ career was nothing short of pioneering, many people who hold the NFL dear, from fans tailgating, to coaches on the sidelines, to broadcasters behind the microphone, constantly ridiculed Al Davis for much of his life. For years, even when Al had better days, the man who helped create the NFL as we know it , was constantly being the butt of jokes and chiding attitudes. I find it comical that people who made fun of Al’s age or draft day decisions, are the same folks who want to take his ethos and what he brought to the game.
Have the Raiders struggled for the last a decade? You better believe it. The Raiders have looked awful in recent seasons and are still in rebuilding mode right now. Was Al Davis stubborn to outside opinion and carefree with this checkbook toward the end of his life? Absolutely. Are Raiders fans still here and keeping Raider Nation strong? That was never in doubt.
We are the team of John Madden’s Badasses, the Snake, Soul Patrol, and the Sea of Hands. We are the team that dominated on Black Sunday, Marcus Allen’s scurrying touchdown run, and Just Win Baby. We are the team who knows Bo, Monday Night Football, and how to bring Chucky to life.
With this nation condemnation I seek to promote elevation amongst the NFL’s population (and they give Drake a record deal?). Elevate yourself as a sports fan, be creative, and embrace your team for what they stand for. Put the hashtags down, read your history books, ignore poll questions and think for yourselves. A better sports society is out there, so use this lambasting as a way to find your own passionate originality and never let it go.
Follow Jeremy on Twitter @jermg11