Why is it that The Raiders is the only NFL team anyone in Europe seems to support by wearing the gear? I never understood this for two reasons. First, Europeans not only don’t watch American football-they couldn’t give a lesser shit about it. I’ve lived here for almost 3 years now and I don’t think I have EVER seen an NFL game being played on a television ANYWHERE. The second reason I didn’t understand the European love for the Raiders merchandise was that even if they did like football, the Raiders pretty much suck as a team. So up until recently I just kind of thought- Whatever, they wear the Raiders logo because they think it makes them look tough. The truth is they don’t really understand how right they are.
Having grown up in the Bay Area I had to choose between the Oakland Raiders or the San Francisco 49ers. I don’t really care for football; to be honest I have no idea what the hell is going on like 90% of the time, but that’s not what’s important. The important thing is to just pick a side. Either you support the Niners because you’re a regular joe and you just live your life and maybe you like football…. or you’re a fucking Raider fan. Raider fans are truly a force to be reckoned with. I never understood the die-hard love these people had for a team that never seems to win. But for them it doesn’t matter because Raider fans aren’t there to support a team- they’re there to be bad ass. Needless to say, having had a safe and pleasant childhood (and living in the same neighborhood as Jerry Rice) I’ve always naturally been more of a Niners girl. However, I digress..
My whole understanding of the “Raider Nation” was changed when the other day it was brought up in a conversation I was having with this random Austrian guy. I was trying to convince him why it was so dumb for Europeans to wear Raider gear when they are such a shitty team. But he posed an idea to me that totally made me think differently about the Raiders, their logo, and their fans. For him, the Raiders logo doesn’t represent a team as much as it represents a tool that totally fueled the gangsta rap movement in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
Picture my brain exploding right now because that’s pretty much what happened. I took a minute to kind of marvel at how so far, every Austrian I think I’ve ever met seems to have a real affinity for gangsta rap, and then I quickly recomposed myself to ask him to expand on his statement. Instead he just told me to watch this documentary – so upon his suggestion I went home and looked it up.
Now I finally feel at peace with the Raiders. Not only were they the first football team to really turn into a brand, but it was all kind of by coincidence. It was just some kids from bad neighborhoods who identified with the team and wore their gear while rapping about their lives. In this way it’s almost like the Raiders brand is actually an honest one. They didn’t try to use fads to plot out ways to make money off youth. No, they actually were just a super bad ass team, the youth identified with them, and everything sort of fell into place. And it was also cool to see that back in the day the Raiders actually were a really good team. So my hat goes off to the Raiders, the logo, the brand, and the legacy.