Oakland Raider fans from all over California and the country came together in downtown Oakland for Back to Football: The Raider Nation Celebration to usher in the beginning of the 2010 Raiders football season. Located in Frank Ogawa Plaza, fans were able to stroll the park and interact with Raiderettes, play in the kids' zone, purchase Raiders merchandise, and much more. JT the Brick served as Master of Ceremonies with many special guests making appearances such as media personalities Greg Papa and Bill Romanowski.
CB Nnamdi Asomugha signs autographs at Back to Football: The Raider Nation Celebration. Photo by Tony Gonzales.
Following a performance by the Raiderette squad, Head Coach Tom Cable took the microphone and introduced the full squad of coaches and players to the thousands of fans in attendance.
After player introductions, Raiders.com's Jeanette Thompson led a question and answer session with players CB Nnamdi Asomugha, TE Zach Miller, DE Richard Seymour, RB Michael Bush, QB Jason Campbell, T Robert Gallery, rookie LB Rolando McClainand offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. Thompson tested the players' knowledge of their teammates and taught the crowd a little bit more about each athlete. Throughout the event prizes were raffled, music was played, and excitement built in anticipation for the 2010 season and the match up with cross-town rivals, the San Francisco 49ers.
Long-time Raiders fan, Rodney Best, born and raised in Oakland, Calif., was excited to attend the Raider Nation Celebration. "The Nation has convened! It's a real beautiful thing. But the most exciting thing, we've got momentum back, baby. We are serious and we're going to make it happen," said Best. For lifetime fan Brandon Halfnen, participating in the Raider Nation Celebration is a ritual and a way of life. "I'm a diehard," Halfnen said. "I can't even imagine life without Raiders football. It's my life, I'm here every year and I'm always going to be in the Black Hole, Row 1."
Raiders Head Coach Tom Cable poses for a photo with Oakland Chief of Police Anthony Batts and Oakland City Councilmember Larry Reid. Photo by Tony Gonzales.
Optimism for the season was high with talk of the playoffs. In addition to the hope for a winning season, Best was most optimistic about the new attitude he sees emanating from the coaches and players. "The most important thing is to see the coaches' attitude is positive and that the players are believing it," he said.
Fans came dressed up in their Raiders gear to replicate the spirit of game days. Chris George attended Raider Nation Celebration as Raider Claus and traveled from Southern California to participate in the event. George wears the attire to many of the Raider games to add positive energy into the crowd. "It brings a lot of good cheer to the Raider Nation and to show the good side of the Raiders," said George.
Fans joined The Oakland Raiders to celebrate the start of a great season. Energy was high and fans were animated and ready for the start of Raiders football. Dave Chavez, a fan since 1960, summed up the attitude of Raider Nation Celebration 2010 - "I bleed silver and black!"