This year’s Raider Nation Celebration was dubbed as “Return to Football.” It would have been more appropriate to call it the “Return to Good Football.” That was the feeling in Frank Ogawa plaza that day. Raider Announcer Greg Papa even came out and made light of the idea. He said the Raiders are going to win this year. But he added the disclaimer “I know we have said that for the past few years, but this time we really mean it.” And this time the fans actually believe it.
The past few years the RNC has been held at the coliseum. The benefit to having it there is it gave the fans a chance to see the players run some drills on the field in a somewhat simulated practice. But other than that aspect of the event, it wasn’t an ideal location for it.
Frank Ogawa plaza offers a much more intimate setting for the RNC. It has a small amphitheatre area which is ideal for the stage while the booths, Raiderettes, and Raider Legends set up surrounding the grass area so anyone in attendance was within a few steps of it all.
The best part of this venue and itinerary was the players were able to sign autographs for quite a long time. By my watch, it was about an hour which was enough time for a fan to get an autograph from pretty much every Raider player if they were so inclined.
This extended autograph session was only possible because there was no quazi practice session beforehand. So it was a bit of a trade off in that regard. I think most fans would prefer the extra autographs and pictures with their favorite players over seeing them run some drills. Although you can correct me if you think I’m wrong.
One fan most certainly agrees with me. His name is Dontavies Mitchell and he flew into Oakland at 10:55am Friday all the way from Atlanta Georgia just to attend the RNC. When he got to the event he signed up for the raffle just for the heck of it, not really thinking he would win anything. He ended up winning a football autographed by Nnamdi Asomugha and got to meet him and take a picture with him. He had hoped to attend the game tomorrow as well so JT the Brick and the Raiders hooked him up with a couple of tickets as well. He was already happy just to be there but he was on cloud 9 after that. It is always great to witness a story like that.
The whole event was nice to witness. And Dontavies was just one of a reported 4,000 fans that came excited and left even more excited and with a few nice autographs to boot.
All in all the Raiders really did it right this time. They really reached out to fans on Friday afternoon. And that kind of goodwill and personal connection goes a long way.