Happy re-birthday, Oakland Raiders fans! It was fifteen years ago today that Al Davis and the city of Oakland agreed to move the franchise from Los Angeles back to Oakland, and the Oakland Raiders football organization was born again.
On June 23, 1995, back when Al Davis still wore jumpsuits and sunglasses with neck chains, the Raiders' owner signed a letter of intent and held a jubilant press conference to announce the team would begin the 1995 NFL season playing at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
For the first couple months, Mayor Harris was right. The Raiders' return to the Bay was like a fairy tale coming true. Behind apparent genius coach Mike White and apparent Hall of Fame quarterback Jeff Hostetler, the reincarnated Oakland Raiders started the 1995 season 8-2.
But the honeymoon was more of a false start. The Raiders lost the rest of their games that season and finished last in the division.
Ticket sales plummeted, and subsequent lousy Raider teams didn't help matters.
Raider Nation has had to slap its forehead through the Joe Bugel administration, the Larry Brown and Ricky Dudley and Randy Moss disasters, a flurry of Sebastian Janikowski arrests, a horrible tuck rule call that cost them an AFC Championship, two seasons of Lane Kiffin, and countless jokes about a coach who allegedly punches people.
Oakland fans will recall that the Raiders were called "the dumbest team in America". And that quote came from their own head coach.
But there have been many marvelous moments for the re-booted Oakland Raiders. Good guys Jerry Rice and Rod Woodson flourished in Oakland. Black Hole fans have more than lived up to their reputation, and won national respect for a very funny meme employing Chucky dolls. The Raiders won the AFC and represented Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVII.
These fifteen years back in Oakland have been a mixed bag of memories on the field for the Raiders.
But off the field and out in the parking lot, the pre-game tailgate parties in Oakland have always shown a commitment to excellence.
Joe Kukura is a freelance writer who thinks real men play NFL football on infield baseball dirt.