Now that the football season is officially over, I can say it. Some people will miss the excitement of the actual games. (Obviously, when I say "excitement," I am not including the Patriots' 13-3 victory over the Rams, the lowest scoring Super Bowl ever.) Me, not so much. I will miss the food. Specifically, pre-game tailgating food. Even more specifically, pre-game tailgating food at the Oakland Coliseum.
I am not a sportswriter like The Californian’s Jon Mettus or Trevor Horn. I am a casual sports aficionado at best. Like so many other wanna-be football experts, I do have an opinion. After all, even with a San Francisco 49er son and Pittsburgh Steelers son-in-law somehow embedded in my home, La Casa De Flores is officially part of the Raider Nation. As unsophisticated as it is and with total respect for the legions of football fans much smarter than me, I offer this to officially end this football season.
The real Super Bowl this past football season happened Dec. 12, 2018 at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum. It was the Oakland Raiders against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Derek Carr threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Derek Carrier with 21 seconds left in the game before the Steelers' Chris Boswell slipped on a potential game-tying 40-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the Raiders' 24-21 victory.
We were there for the game. As the Raiders are currently homeless, I am compelled to share with you our final memories of our last game at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum. Let’s start with this.
Everything you have ever heard about the Raider tailgate experience is true. With apologies to Rod Serling, a Raider tailgate party is a dimension as vast as a horizonless parking lot and as timeless as a bottomless ice chest. It is the middle ground between silver and black, between cold beers and hot toddies, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his barbecue knowledge. This is the dimension of outdoor culinary imagination. It is an area which we call the Raider Nation Tailgate experience.
As evidence, we offer this.
As we pulled into the parking lot line before the Raider-Steelers game, there was an older well-worn truck directly in front of us slowly nudging forward. By the smoke emanating from its tailpipe, we assumed it has never passed smog inspection. We guessed it was a grandfather, son and grandson sitting on the rear of the truck with the tailgate down … dangerous at best and definitely against the law. In the bed of the truck were huge speakers, tables and a totally exposed full-sized pig on a spit sitting on top of cases of beer.
None of my family in our van could believe what we were seeing. One of the many traffic cops directing traffic would surely ask the truck to pull over and call Child Protective Services, the Humane Society, the Department of Motor Vehicles Code Enforcement or the Health Department. The “Beverly Hillbillies”-style truck and its passengers and cargo were hurriedly waved into the parking lot.
And so began our final tailgate experience. This was my daughter Brenna’s first and last Raider game at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum. My children Aaron and Nikki and son-in-law Carlos were experienced Raider tailgaters but this last one felt a little different. It felt like we were defending Super Bowl champs. The music was louder, the smoke thicker and the camaraderie plentiful … even with Steelers fans who showed up in full force proudly wearing their colors.
It was almost difficult to leave the tailgating for the game. A full dance party broke out just across from our proud and humble one table, one smoker grill set-up. Nearby tailgaters all joined in on the disco fun. A few parking spaces down from us were two very large men slowly turning the pig on a spit over an open barbecue pit. As my son-in-law Carlos pointed out, he wondered if the truck exhaust added special flavor to the meat.
Wherever the Raiders end up next season, I hope the stadium continues the legacy of Raider tailgating. There is no experience quite like walking among fellow Raider fans in a sea of silver and black. You feel like you have finally arrived to your sports home with family you have never met.
Sign stop ahead ... Raider Nation Tailgating in whichever city will have us.