Maybe it was the location, but my excursion three weeks ago to Northern California turned out to be less than a satisfying experience. Don't get me wrong; Lake Tahoe is an absolutely beautiful place to visit, but I planned to irritate every Raiders fan I could find while I was there. My two younger sons and I were decked out in Chiefs ball caps whenever we were outside. I made it a point to wear my Wildbillschiefs staff polo shirt. For the cool evenings, we all had Chiefs sweatshirts. There was enough red to get a blind bull to charge. And what happened? They were nice.
You would expect the "tea and croissant" munchers that follow the 49ers to be nice - and they were. I ran into two Chargers fans (probably the only two in the world) and they were every bit as nice as the 49ers fans. That wasn't an unexpected reaction (after all, what do they have to be arrogant about?). But Raiders fans are supposed to be nasty; little more than rabid wild dogs. TV broadcasts make sure that the nuts and flakes in "Raiders Nation" get plenty of camera time to show the world what happens as a result of generations of inbreeding. Al Davis, the Raiders owner, is reputed to be the Antichrist. Forty-plus-years of fierce rivalry between the Chiefs and the Raiders and what I get is nice. A whole car load of Raiders fans drove by in the parking lot one morning and all I got were friendly smiles and waves (and no, the middle finger was not extended).
Actually, what I got was worse than nice. I got Raiders fans coming up to me to talk about the Chiefs' chances for this upcoming season. They wanted to talk about Priest Holmes, Tony Gonzalez, and Dick Vermeil. There were several discussions about the return of Gunter Cunningham and what it might mean for the Chiefs' defense. Several wanted the URL for wildbillschiefs.com. How weird is that? Weird enough that I started to look around for Rod Sterling. Maybe itís a sign of the apocalypse. More likely, it's a sign that big money and free agency have ruined the rivalry aspect of the game - at least for the players. When you have ex-Raiders on the Chiefs bench and ex-Chiefs on the Raiders bench, it's tough to keep the rivalry going with the same kind of intensity. Interestingly, the venom started dripping from the Raiders fans when the Denver Broncos were mentioned. I was forced to admit that I shared their contempt for the Broncos. The two Chargers fans also voiced a strong dislike for the Broncos. Looks like Denver has supplanted the Raiders as the most hated team in the AFC West. In a way, it's a real shame although, admittedly, not much.