That was my first thought after the Uber driver, Tamer, dropped me at the BART depot on the Mount Davis side of Oakland-Alameda County Stadium Sunday morning. Tamer said he wasn’t much of an American football fan because he didn’t understand the rules, though he was excited about Egypt’s chances to qualify for next year’s World Cup.
It was three hours before kickoff. The avenues and access roads linking the hulking concrete bowl to the hardscrabble part of Oakland, California, were buzzing in multiple ways.
Strolling through the elevated walkway cage that connects the BART depot to the Coliseum, note was taken of the industrial yards filled with scrap iron and hunks of rubble, and the corrugated roofs with graffiti scrawled on top. One doesn’t see that on game day in Dallas.
Looming large and straight ahead was the gray concrete monolith now known as Oakland Coliseum again. It opened in 1966, and it has been called other names, depending on what Silicon Valley company could be fleeced for naming rights, or if one got fleeced for his wallet and wristwatch after a game.
Giant banners commemorating the World Series championships of the Athletics and the Raiders’ Commitment to Excellence stretch from the upper to lower decks on either side of the entrance portal — the Coliseum is the last multipurpose stadium standing still hosting both baseball and football.
The concrete facade is discolored, as if by water damage.
Or something else.
This is why Who’s Next came to mind.
Not who’s next lowercase, as in the Jets, who in six hours’ time would be routed 45-20 by the Raiders, who are pretty good this year. Or the Redskins, this week’s Oakland opponent. Who’s Next uppercase, as in the classic 1971 album — and album cover — by the British rock quartet The Who.
The album cover shows members of the band zipping up while walking away from a concrete piling towering over a slag heap. Hence the Oakland Coliseum analogy. There are stains on the piling, as if band members had just urinated on it. (In truth, only Pete Townshend did; Roger Daltrey, Keith Moon and John Entwistle could not perform, and so rainwater from an empty film canister was dripped onto the piling to achieve the effect.)
In 2001, VH1 named Who’s Next one of the greatest album covers of all time.
In 2015, a website called The Sportster ranked Oakland Coliseum the worst stadium in the NFL.
Oakland needs a new football stadium. Oakland is not getting a new football stadium, because Oakland also needs things such as cops and roads. This is why in three years Las Vegas will be getting Oakland’s football team. It’s a little more complicated than that, but at the same time, it’s just that simple.
One can’t help but be sympathetic to Raider Nation, the team’s rabid and steadfast fan base. One also can’t help but notice the Coliseum and Raider Nation and the city of Oakland and its football team have much in common, starting with a rough edge and pockmarks.
While making the loop from the Mount Davis side to the press elevator side, a wild-eyed representative of Raider Nation came charging out of one of the tailgate areas. He was headed straight for me. He was wearing a !@#$ Vegas t-shirt, only it didn’t use !@#$; it just spelled it out. For this was Oakland.
The wild-eyed Raiders fan was only pursuing an overthrown football. Just to be safe, or relatively safe, I turned around my credential that said I was with the home wreckers from the desert.
After the game, the home wreckers got lost in the bowels of the Coliseum trying to find the Raiders’ locker room. The narrow, dank passageways of Oakland Coliseum are a tougher commute than the catacombs of Paris, although not as risky as walking back to the BART station after a Monday night game.
Raiders coach Jack Del Rio was speaking at his postgame news conference in the A’s subterranean batting cage. As Dylan said, the pump don’t work ‘cause the vandals took the handles. The Jets’ Todd Bowles held court in the visitors’ baseball training room where a toilet had exploded after an A’s-Mariners game in 2013.
Cashman Field revisited. Bringing it all back home.
When the Raiders’ locker room finally was stumbled upon, the attendant said I had to turn my credential around before I would be allowed inside. He smiled and nodded, failing to notice I was with the home wreckers.
Contact Ron Kantowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.
Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
— Opened: 1966
— Cost: $25 million
— Renovated: 1995-96
— Cost: $200 million
— Capacity: 47,170 baseball (can be expanded to 55,945); 56,063 football (can be expanded to 63,132)
— Did you know: When Oakland Coliseum was being renovated, the Oakland A’s played the first six games of the 1996 major league season at Cashman Field.