Nearly 60 years ago, they began in a fledgling football league representing a little-known city. They morphed into a storied, renegade franchise — run by an eccentric coach-turned-executive and propelled by outlandish characters on the field, inspiring a cult-like following.
And now, the Oakland Raiders are leaving.
Sunday’s game at the Coliseum against Jacksonville marks the end of a crazy and colorful era, probably the last NFL game ever played in Oakland. The Raiders plan to move into a nearly $2 billion stadium in Las Vegas next season.
Their impending departure will separate a team from its rich roots. The Raiders and Oakland long ago formed a bond strong enough to survive 13 seasons in Los Angeles (1982-94), when then-managing general partner Al Davis first wandered away in search of a shinier venue.
This time, Davis’ son, Mark — who took over when his father died in 2011 — could not resist the lure of $750 million in public money to help build a palace in the desert. So ends, presumably forever, the alliance of the Raiders and Oakland, an enduring if volatile marriage with abundant vigor, blue-collar flavor and a touch of Hells Angels spirit.
Raiders fans always have closely identified with their team, maybe because many players seemed so relatable in the 1970s glory days — personable, rugged and perfectly willing to imbibe at local watering holes.