To the NFL, it’s simply St. Louis at Oakland.
To football fans in Southern California, it’s the Traitor Bowl.
To football fans in Northern California, it’s hard to believe.
After 13 years, several false starts, months of negotiating and days of agonizing, the Raiders are back in Oakland, their home for the first 22 years of their existence, and today they play at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
It’s only an exhibition game, with eight regular-season games and perhaps playoff games to follow, but the mere sight of players in those familiar silver-and-black uniforms on the Oakland Coliseum grass should be enough to thrill all those die-hards who never gave up the hope that their beloved Raiders would be back.
On the other hand, disgust and anger might be the best words to describe the feelings of those watching the game from Southern California (1 p.m., Ch. 9). Because, fittingly enough, the Raiders are playing the Rams, the St. Louis Rams.
Both Southern California deserters on the same field, hundreds of miles from their former home, enjoying a new life in front of new fans . . . that could be pretty hard to swallow for any loyalists they left behind.
The Raiders’ return has not been smooth. Nothing, it seems, ever is for this team.
While the club has received approximately 45,000 deposits for personal-seat licenses in a stadium that will seat 50,000 for football this year, today’s game was not included in the package because of the short time available to process the requests following the announcement of the club’s return on June 23. Many fans became aware of that fact when they received their season-ticket information.
As a result, ticket sales for today’s game, handled on a one-game basis, were moving alarmingly slow, with as few as 15,000 sold by one estimate.
Determined to have a sellout, the Raiders have slashed ticket prices for today from $60-$50-$40 to $35-$30-$25, and have been giving away stacks of free tickets.
The Raiders are now optimistic they’ll fill it up. The last thing they would want is to play before a bunch of empty seats. That’s one of the reasons they left Los Angeles.