OAKLAND, Calif. — Around here they call it the Autumn Wind, and on Sunday afternoon it blew across Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum for the last time at a Raiders football game.
According to the rhyme adopted from an ancient pirate song, “The Autumn Wind is a raider, pillaging just for fun. He’ll knock you ’round and upside down, and laugh when he’s conquered and won.”
But outside of the Jaguars’ stunning come-from-behind 20-16 victory over the now 6-8 Raiders, there was little pillaging — fun or otherwise — as the team said goodbye to 52,738 of its most ardent supporters. If the Autumn Wind fanned flames of discontent in regard to the nomadic franchise again forsaking its Northern California fan base, they were mostly the metaphorical kind.
Late in the third quarter, a phalanx of police and security personnel strolled onto the field to face the grandstands with crossed arms. After the Jaguars rallied to take the lead with 31 seconds to play, debris rained from the Black Hole abutting the Jacksonville end zone. A few fights broke out in the stands.
“I wish we could’ve sent the Raider fans off with a lot better finish than that,” Oakland coach Jon Gruden said after his side blew a 16-6 lead in the final six minutes. “Before we talk about the game, I’d like to thank the fans. I’d like to thank the city of Oakland for supporting the Raiders and being faithful in all kinds of seasons. I’ll miss them. I love them.”
The Raiders, who called Oakland home from 1960 to ’81 and again from 1995 until now following an interlude in Los Angeles, will be relocating to Las Vegas in 2020.
As the final gun triggered a salvo of half-eaten nachos and other stadium delicacies onto the field, a guy standing in the front row of the Black Hole unfurled a large banner with a pointed suggestion of what Las Vegas could do to itself.
Carr falls into Hole
“After I get done playing football, they can get mad about somebody else playing quarterback,” quarterback Derek Carr said with a forced smile after falling into the Black Hole afterward to greet its crazed denizens, only to be serenaded by resounding boos. “Familiar faces. So many memories. I had to come out and acknowledge them.”
After the Raiders frittered away a game they should have easily won and their once promising playoff hopes were reduced from slim to none, no one would have blamed Carr for lying low before addressing a media horde far less hostile than the one encountered in the south end-zone stands.
After methodically building a 16-3 halftime lead that appeared more than safe, Oakland failed to score in the second half for the second straight week.
“Really, three possessions is all we had,” Gruden said about the Raiders backing off the throttle. “Move it out of our territory, and I think on fourth down and maybe a yard, a little over a yard, I chose to punt. I think we had 20 first downs and they had two at the time.
“I don’t regret it. I do now, but I didn’t regret it at the time.”
So, too, probably did the guy in the Black Hole who got into a hassle with the cops and was led away in handcuffs. Had the Raiders protected the lead, perhaps he would have been content to exchange high-fives with The Violator and Gorilla Rilla instead of haymakers with the authorities.
Forgettable final act
So instead of a last hurrah, the Raiders went out of the Coliseum with another whimper. Instead of taking a final bow, they bellyflopped and pratfalled before the Coliseum’s tattered curtain was lowered for the last time on pro football, or whatever it is the Raiders have been playing down the stretch.
“I think right now I just want to see my family,” Carr said of saying goodbye to Raider Nation in its once venerable backyard.
“You miss it, you’ve got a lot of memories here and things like that. We had a run here, way longer than I’ve been here. You think about all the players that you’ve worn the same jersey as, things like that. It’s something you have in the memory banks, but that’s life, and you just keep on going.”
By the time the Raiders’ perplexed quarterback had finished philosophizing, the sun had set on what The New York Times recently called the “bland, charmless concrete monstrosity” also known as the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The Autumn Wind had become noticeably more brisk. In six days, it would be a Winter Wind.
Raiders fans — at least the ones in Oakland — already were feeling its bitter chill.
Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
■ Opened: 1966
■ Cost: $25 million ($197 million in 2018 dollars)
■ Renovated: 1995-96
■ Renovation cost: $200 million ($319 million in 2018 dollars)
■ Capacity: 56,057 (football, expandable to 63,132); 46,847 (baseball, expandable to 55,945)
■ Record attendance: 56,310 (Athletics vs. Giants, July 21, 2018)
■ Tenants: Oakland Raiders (AFL/NFL, 1966–1981, 1995–2019); Oakland Athletics (MLB, 1968–present); Oakland Clippers (NPSL/NASL, 1967–1968); Oakland Stompers NASL, 1978); Oakland Invaders (USFL, 1983–1985); San Jose Earthquakes (MLS, 2008–2009)