Californian community columnist Steve Flores

Watching an Oakland Raider football game at home is not complete unless my 40-year-old daughter, Brenna, is there in her Silver and Black gear. It's not the real deal unless she is jumping up and down in our living room, screaming at every first down, penalty flag, pass completion or a rare Oaktown touchdown.

So we were happy, excited and nervous that Brenna took the initiative to organize her first trip, and included her brother Aaron, sister Nikki, brother-in–law Carlos and me, to watch the Raiders play the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

The Steelers coming to the West Coast is practically akin to seeing Halley’s Comet. It’s a once in a lifetime experience -- well, almost. This was just the fourth time the Steelers had come to Oakland since 2000.

For some, going to a Raiders game in Oakland can be a very intimidating experience. The unrelenting devotion to a Raider attitude can be overwhelming. We couldn’t wait to show Brenna the circus-like atmosphere of Raider tailgating where, with a snap of a tablecloth, a whole living room set appears, with a smoking barbecue in the parking spaces on either side of you. The tailgating is almost as much fun as the game itself. The camaraderie and sense of belonging among these strangers, with their spiked shoulder pads and silver and black face paint, is somehow comforting.

It’s been said by experts that, in the early years, parents are their children’s first teachers. I took this responsibility seriously and introduced my four children to the Oakland Raiders at birth.

Although our home has been officially designated by the man of the house -- that would be me -- as an Oakland Raider zone, a San Francisco 49er fan and a Pittsburgh Steeler fan have somehow infiltrated my domicile. Just so you know, my adult daughters, Nikki and Brenna, and son, Aaron, are die-hard Raider fans. There really isn’t any other kind of Raider fan.

It’s been said that the Raiders have the most devoted and faithful fan bases in the National Football League. But, sadly, Aaron’s twin brother Sean is the San Francisco 49er fan. Nikki’s husband Carlos is the Pittsburgh Steeler fan. I can’t explain or defend this.

Over the years I have tried to counsel Sean and Carlos, but to their credit, they maintain their vigilance and loyalty to their respective football teams. On game days, my wife Susie, who understood this division of loyalties, used to wear a special T-shirt designed with both the Raider and 49er team logos.

No matter what your age or gender, in our family, if you are old enough to claim a team, be prepared to get your weekly dose of football family smackdown. Of course it’s all done respectfully and in good humor.

It’s been a tough year for my Oakland Raiders. We are at the bottom of almost every National Football League statistic this year, including win-loss record -- 2 and 10. So the family smackdown has been relentless and brutal all season. I wish I had a beer for every time I am out in public on Game Day wearing my Raider gear and someone says, “Who you guys losing to today?” Or, "How does a Raider fan count to 10? Oh and one, Oh and two, Oh and three ..."

How do you know if someone you know is a loyal Raider fan? Here is one clue. If he has driven to Las Vegas recently and visited the construction site where the team's 65,000-seat, $2 billion stadium is being built, he definitely qualifies.

By the time you read this column, my family and I probably will have returned from Oakland. Maybe you are reading Monday’s Bakersfield Californian sports section, where the headline ought to say something like, “Raiders score in final seconds to edge Steelers.”

And so they did, 24-21, but even if it had gone the other way, I know my family enjoyed watching Brenna bond with other like-minded members of her Raider Nation.

Like I said, I took my parental responsibilities seriously and introduced my four children to the Oakland Raiders at birth. Forty years later, Brenna’s loyalty to the Raiders is proof that I am a good dad.

Three-and-10, baby. Three-and-10.

Email contributing columnist Steve Flores at floressteve32@yahoo.com. His work normally appears here every third Monday; the views expressed are his own.

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