I’m not one to perpetuate stereotypes, but there’s at least one group in the Bay Area with a generalization that’s hard to deny: Raiders fans.
I come from the Boston area, and while we can get worked up over the Red Sox, it’s nothing — NOTHING — compared to what Oak-town fans do. I’ve never once worn facepaint or a skull mask to a game, and I didn’t know anyone who has — or even thought about it — until I moved out here.
And you don’t need to go to the Black Hole on a Sunday to know it’s true. Just look around town. People wear their gear, sure, but it’s all over their cars and houses, too. Flags, garage doors, you name it. Some of it is stuff I didn’t even know you could merchandise.
So Raiders fans are passionate. Raiders fans are dedicated. But are they forgetful? Are they vengeful? Or maybe, Zen?
Five years ago tomorrow — Jan. 19, 2002 — was the day of the now-infamous AFC divisional playoff game between the favored Raiders and the upstart New England Patriots.
As all of Raider Nation knows, the game hinged on a Charles Woodson hit on Tom Brady. The ball popped loose and the Raiders recovered, but the apparent fumble was ruled an incomplete pass thanks to something called the “tuck rule.” The Pats went on to win, thanks to an Adam Vinatieri field goal through the swirling ice and snow.
Since The Tuck, the Pats have won three championships (and are on their way to a fourth). The Raiders made it to the Super Bowl a year later but got stomped and have slid into the role of AFC laughingstock.
So, I wanted to know what The Tuck means to the Raider faithful five long years down the line. So, I went out and asked some Raiders fans. Every one I could find, actually. Here’s a sampling of what I heard, and their Raider cred, when available.
Lance Wills, Tracy Raiders dad: “Oh, it was a bogus call. It was a serious bogus call … but I’m not totally mad about it. I live and learn. Really, that was the break the Raiders needed to get to the Super Bowl, but other than that, I don’t trip much off of it. I still think about it occasionally, though … when 49er fans bring it up, it makes my blood boil.”
Jesse Gregory, 58, season ticket holder since 1970: “Oh man … well, you know, it’s whoever the NFL wants to win … but oh God, that was stupid. What a stupid call. Charles Woodson knocks the ball loose … and then the call. Yeah, right. Tuck this!”
Matthew Palomino, Raider jacket and Raider polo shirt: “It sucked. That was our year. We should have won the Super Bowl. Everyone knows it was a fumble.”
Rich Vaccarezza: “That’s when it all changed … you can compare it to Bill Buckner’s ball through the legs.” (He HAD to bring that up, didn’t he So will anything erase the pain) “Win the Super Bowl, or maybe a .500 season. Maybe.”
Josh Alvarez, 19: “God, that got me so mad. Honestly, I believe it was a setup. As a Raiders fan, I don’t think I’ll ever get over that one.”
Ray Brown, 37, Raider hat, jacket and silver-and-black do-rag: “I said, ‘Oh man, we won the game — we’re going to the championship.’ Then they came with the new rule. I’ve been watching football since I was 4 years old — I never heard of that a day in my life. That’s some crap.”
Joe Daniel: “Don’t remind me … It’s been five years already Damn. I remember that day well … seems like we haven’t been able to get that curse off of us.”
Ben, 9, perusing baseball cards at Target, wearing a Lamont Jordan jersey: “I don’t think the Raiders are cursed — they just need to get rid of Randy Moss.”
(True story: Right after I finished with Ben, two young men, 16 or so judging by their attempts at moustaches, came up to me and demanded to know what I was doing. I explained — and thought I was in luck, as one had a Raider hat on, but he refused an interview. He even refused eye contact. So I walked away. Five minutes later, I saw one giving a description of me to Ben’s mother — “Yeah, he had a notebook and everything” — and the other doing the same to Target security. So, apparently I look like a child predator.)
So, there you have it. Raider fans: angry about The Tuck. Raider fans: don’t forget about The Tuck. Raider fans: care about little kids.
To contact Sports Editor Christopher H. Roberts and sound off about the Tuck Rule, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.