My name is Erin Haight and I live in Spokane, Washington, a place I’ve called home since early childhood, excepting a couple of sojourns elsewhere to get a college education. I became a Raiders fan in 1972. I was seven years old. I had been interested in football and other professional sports since I was five, but only developed team loyalties a couple of years later. My dad, his older brother, and their cousin were rabid Raider fans and sold me on their passion for the team. As they told it, the Raiders were a hard-living, hard-playing bunch of take no prisoners types who never gave up, no matter how long the odds. Even today, I can’t argue with that characterization of them.
The names of the players during those years when the Raiders fought, scraped, and persevered their way to that first championship still evoke that sense of awe I felt at the time. My favorites were Willie Brown, Ken Stabler, Gene Upshaw, and George Blanda, but I loved all of them and still treasure the memories. Mention a name and I can come up with an anecdote or a thumbnail sketch of their role on those teams. And, oh yeah, John Madden. Long after he had achieved wide fame as a television personality and video game impresario, he was still, to me, the coach that turned all those crazy bastards into the only team in the league worth caring about. And, of course, Al Davis, that singular man whose stubborn insistence on carving his own deliberately independent path reflected the same attitude found on the field, or almost certainly, the other way around. One of the biggest thrills in a lifetime of sports fandom was the chance to watch a game seated not ten feet away from his august presence in the Kingdome press box. There were more championships to come and many great players who followed those great figures of my youth, but none ever held me in thrall the way those teams did in the early 1970s.
I’ve never wavered in my devotion to the team. To this day, I can’t imagine changing allegiances. The Raiders haven’t been consistently good since that fateful day in 1986 when Marcus Allen fumbled away the team’s legacy against the Eagles in overtime and that’s been tremendously disappointing over the years. And I’ll hate to see them go to Las Vegas. But they’re my team and I’ll take that to the grave.
September 14, 2018