Kevin Tolson holds the Super Bowl trophy during the facility tour of Raider Mecca.
My story begins on Dec 22, 1972, when I was eight years old. I watched football a lot because of my family's love for the game. My dad was one of 11 children and every Sunday during the season the family would gather to watch games. Everyone liked a different team, but I had no favorite at that point. However, this day was different because I was in my room alone watching the Raiders battle the Steelers. It was such a hard fought game and I was really into it. I am left handed and I was amazed by Ken Stabler being a lefty too. I found myself pulling for him.
As the world knows, the game ended on a controversial call and I felt bad. I knew that day the Raiders were my team because of the way I felt and I wanted revenge for that game. Revenge came for the team in 1977 as they crushed Pittsburgh on the way to becoming Super Bowl XI champs.
Living in Connecticut, I didn't get to see the Raiders play every week, but they always showed Raiders vs. Steelers. I began to read anything I could get my hands on with Raider info. There wasn't any internet in those days. I felt a part of something bigger than any other sports teams I liked. The Raiders had different characters -- they had an attitude I related to. When we played sandlot games I was always the Snake, Lester Hayes, Phil Villapiano or Fred Biletnikoff, depending on the play, always dreaming of one day seeing my team in Oakland. I have favorite teams in baseball and basketball but nothing compares to my passion for the Raiders.
I told my wife this story on our first date and my story came full circle the week of September 14, 2009. My lovely wife surprised me for my 45th birthday with a trip to Oakland to see my Raiders play their Monday night home opener. I have seen the Raiders play in other cities, but this was beyond my wildest dreams. I made the most of the trip by attending the Raider Mecca tour.
I got off the plane Saturday around 4:30 p.m. and by 6:00 p.m. I was crossing the Bart walkway looking at the large Commitment to Excellence banner. I nearly cried. I became that eight year old boy again with all my great Raider memories flashing through my mind as I walked closer.
I attended a legends event and guess who the legends were…yes -- the Snake, Biletnikoff and Villapiano. The next morning it was off to Ricky's and John Vella's. John Vella was awesome telling me stories and even letting me take a picture wearing his Super Bowl XI ring. I heard stories that the ring actually had the score of the championship game vs. the Steelers and to my surprise it was true. I was wearing the ring, the little kid from Connecticut.
I finally got my revenge too. That afternoon, we visited the facility to meet with the legends and go on a facility tour. To my surprise again, I got to take pictures with the Raiders three Super Bowl trophies. When asked which one I wanted to hold up of course I said the one from Super Bowl XI. How much more could I ask for?
Monday night during the game in the 4th quarter, we had the ball 4th and 15 I kept telling everyone in our section, "It's Monday night, it took me 30 years to get here, something special is going to happen I can feel it!" I kept repeating that over and over. The next thing you know, Louis Murphy is in the end zone and I could hear Bill King and Greg Papa shout, "Touchdown RAIDERSSSSSSS!!!!" W e lost a thriller to the Chargers but I will never forget my trip to Oakland.