Raider Mecca participants pose for a photo outside the Raiders headquarters. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Members of the Raider Nation from all over the country and the world came together in Alameda to take part in the 14th Annual Raider Mecca, a weekend full of fan-organized events to celebrate the Silver and Black. Participants had the opportunity to meet rookies QB Terrelle Pryor and RB Taiwan Jones at an autograph session at The Raider Image, pose for photos with the Super Bowl trophies, take a tour of Raiders headquarters, and hear from Raiders executive Marc Badain and Raiders Legend Morris Bradshaw. They finished off their Mecca experience by attending the Raiders vs. Chiefs game at O.co Coliseum.
The weekend was full of surprises and opportunities for the visitors, including a guest appearance from recently acquired quarterback Carson Palmer, who stopped by to share a moment with the fans, greeting them and expressing his excitement to be part of the Raider Nation. The Mecca participants also had a chance to view special Raiders videos that paid tribute to Al Davis, and relived the emotional victory in Houston and the home game against the Cleveland Browns.
Frank Siemen, a first-time Mecca participant from Pennsylvania, was excited to be at the Raiders facility. "I've been a Raider fan since I was five years old," said Siemen. "My dad was a diehard Raider fan; he loved Kenny Stabler and Dave Casper. When I asked him why he was such a big Raiders fan, he said, 'They always win at the end of the game.' So that spirit came over to me, the whole idea Al Davis had about Commitment to Excellence resonated with me and I couldn't be more excited to be here today. It's been awesome."
Other participants have been attending Raider Mecca for years. "This is my 11th Mecca," said Jerry Lopez from Bayview, Fla. "You don't choose the Raiders; the Raiders choose you. I've been a fan for practically all my life. I just loved the mystique of the Raiders, what they stood for – they stood for winning." Because of his connection to the Raiders, Lopez started a booster club with his friends in 1996 and watched the club grow to nearly 150 members.
Fans from as far as Tokyo, Japan, made the trip to Oakland to share the weekend with fellow Raiders fans, meet Raider greats, and enjoy a home game. "I come to about four, five games a year from Tokyo, Japan, where I live," said Mike Madigan, who is originally from Oakland. "I've been in Tokyo 20 years and am still a die hard Raiders fan so I'm involved as the international director of our fan club here and I come out ever year."
As the first Mecca group since the passing of Al Davis, many of the participants were emotional during their time at the facility, seeing where Mr. Davis spent so much time and hearing personal stories from Badain and Bradshaw. "It's emotional coming here to the headquarters and feeling a little closure," said Madigan. "I'm feeling a bit sad, but feeling very happy to share it with my brothers and sisters."
Bradshaw, while speaking to the group, described what connects Raiders fans to the organization and Mr. Davis. "Raider fans are unique, just like Mr. Davis, just like our players," said Bradshaw. "We all take pride in saying that. What is unique about it is that none of you are just fans on Sunday. That's the difference."
Raider Mecca was an opportunity for the guests to show the never-ending passion for the Raiders Bradshaw talked about. Mecca brought together fans from all over the world with one thing in common – passion for The Oakland Raiders. Meeting current players and Raiders legend, interacting with other fans, touring the facility, seeing the Super Bowl trophies and attending the game -- the participants had the opportunity to enjoy a weekend full of Silver and Black.