OAKLAND — This Sunday, the first after the end of daylight savings time, with the weather beautiful and the sun low, was a bittersweet reminder of what will be missed.
Not just the football, thrilling and rewarding as it turned out to be, but everything, the scene, the atmosphere, the people.
The Raiders were back where they belong, but after four more games — one of those Thursday night — where they won’t be for long. A true home game, at their actual home, the Oakland Coliseum, after six weeks.
Sure, the games at Houston, Minneapolis, London even, were on TV. What isn’t on TV? The Raiders returned to practice in Alameda. But not until they played right there on the Coliseum turf, the crowd chanting “Raiders, Raiders,” was it apparent how much they were missed.
And how much they will be missed.
The Raiders won Sunday, beating the Detroit Lions 31-24 on a nine-yard touchdown pass from Derek Carr to Hunter Renfrow with 2:04 remaining and a subsequent goal-line stand.
Exhilarating, rewarding. And in a way, because the Raiders are moving to Las Vegas, depressing.
“Thank the fans for coming out,” was almost the first thing Raider coach Jon Gruden said in his postgame remarks.
“Thank the mayor and everyone else for letting us play a home game again. It was great to get in here. Our fans were awesome today.”
Indeed they were. They always have been awesome. And incredibly loyal.
Despite the way they’ve been treated, the team moving to Los Angeles for a while and now destined to move to Las Vegas forever.
The joy, the excitement, the feeling that a sports franchise was very much a part of a city, a region, could be measured on Sunday, starting with the famous parking lot tailgates, at which nobody is a stranger, and going until the final buzzer.
The days grow short, in more than one way. Time is almost up for the Oakland Raiders, although on a day like Sunday, the best that Northern California could provide, the best that a football team in black could offer, the future mattered less than the present.
It’s not the fault of the fans that the city of Oakland couldn’t build a $2 billion stadium to keep the Raiders where they belong. Fans keep a team going. Then an owner, Mark Davis in this instance, demands what they can’t provide and gleefully hauls their beloved franchise to another city.
So much history. Everywhere logos and signs reminding this is the Raiders' 60th year — but not calling attention that it’s their final year here. Videos of great players from the past, memories that tease more than they reassure. It’s as if the Raiders want to tell us, “We gave you this, and now we’re taking it away.”
What the Raiders gave on Sunday was a solid performance. They were lacking injured offensive linemen but scored four touchdowns, all by rookies.
“We’re missing a lot of key players,” said Gruden, and then maybe for a change of pace, or to prove he knows the big picture, added, “I know the Warriors are missing key players, and it ain’t easy.”
Neither is losing your team. The Warriors already fled Oracle Arena, adjacent to the Coliseum — albeit just to San Francisco — which as we know leaves only the Athletics in Oakland.
The Raiders are 4-4 for the season, and might even creep into the playoffs. This is a team on the rise, which it should be with three first-round picks in this year’s draft. Josh Jacobs, the rookie from Alabama, had two of those touchdowns.
What’s sobering is that with all the young talent the Raiders most likely will become a winner after they move to Vegas, a poke in the gut to those who made the Black Hole so much a part of the NFL, to those who even if unintentionally created “Raider Nation.”
That’s the way life works, of course. The Oakland Raiders are soon to be the Las Vegas Raiders, and all the kicking and screaming won’t mean a thing. Sad, so sad.