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Cowboy Country meets Raider Nation

NFL writer Jerry McDonald

Posted by NFL Editor and ANG football writer Jerry McDonald
The quick declaration of a sellout for Sunday’s Cowboys-Raiders game came as at least a mild surprise, but considering what went on in Week 1 and Week 3 at California venues, maybe it shouldn’t have been.

Dallas had a vociferous presence in the stands at both Qualcomm Stadium and Monster Park, and their come-from-behind wins at both places were accompanied by the roar of the road crowd.

That sets up an interesting scenario Sunday at McAfee Coliseum. In a game the Raiders desperately need to win, they may be faced with the largest presence of fans cheering for the visiting team since they returned to Oakland in 1995.

You can knock the yearly blackout totals and the empty seats, but the Coliseum has never seen many fans rooting for the team in the light jerseys.

That could change Sunday, and you wonder how Raider Nation will handle it.

Since 1995, the Raiders have sold out 11 of 12 prime time games but only 16 of 72 (22 percent) in the afternoon.

The Cowboys never went home after the 49ers game, and have practiced all week at San Jose State. That’s been the plan since the schedule came out.

Raiders tickets are readily available. Those who wanted to travel, as well as Cowboys fans in the area, had plenty of chances to snap up extra tickets.

The pro-Dallas faction was so loud at the 49ers game last week Tim Rattay supposedly called a late time out because of crowd noise.

There were as many fans wearing Cowboys gear awaiting a glimpse of their heroes following their closed practice in San Jose Thursday as I’ve seen in the back parking lot of the Napa Marriott during training camp, pining for an autograph from their favorite Raider.

If Dallas is getting cheers in Oakland, it will be unusual for the Raiders, but not the Cowboys.

“It does make you feel good sometimes when go somewhere and you’ve got support,” coach Bill Parcells said. “I thought we had pretty good support (in San Francisco). I thought we had it in San Diego. Maybe there are a lot of Cowboys in California.”

Veteran defensive end Greg Ellis has gotten used to it.

“I think you’d be hardpressed to find more fan support than we have on the road,” Ellis said. “When we go places, sometimes you get a call go your way and you hear the crowd roar and think, ‘Are we at home or are we away?’ ”

Backup tight end Dan Campbell said games on the West Coast don’t have the same noise factor for visitors that they do on the East Coast, particularly against division rivals such as Washington and the New York Giants.

Kenyon Coleman, a starting defensive end for Dallas who played as a rookie with the Raiders before being traded, remembers similar support in some road games with Oakland.

“My first year with the Raiders it was kind of like the same thing,” Coleman said. “Both organizations have a lot of support on the road. Obviously there will be a lot of Raider fans in Oakland, but there will be a lot of Cowboy fans too.”

When asked if that could be a volatile mix, Coleman let out a long laugh.

“Oh, man, I hope it will be OK,” Coleman said. “I’m worrying about the football game.”

I’ve always thought the perception of the Coliseum as a thug haven during Raiders game is overrated, having been to enough other NFL sites to see that drinking and profanity isn’t limited to silver and black.

The fact is, there is this sort of behavior at every game, and its limited to a smaller percentage of people than you might think.

I’ve seen Raiders fans and 49ers fans hanging out together in the parking lot every preseason, sharing a laugh, a beverage and a good-natured insult.

I was on a flight to Philadelphia with some Raider fans who were part of ex-Raider John Vella’s travel group.

Their concerns were the same ones reflected on talk shows and the newspapers.

  • Why aren’t they throwing to Moss?
  • Where’s the pass rush?
  • What’s up with Janikowski?
  • Can we count on Collins?
  • Are Washington and Routt going to be any good?

Of course, a columnist from another paper on a different flight was seated next to a guy named “Hardcore” who had a a business card of himself in silver and black facepaint, so you never know.

Having enemy fans in the house, en masse, if that is indeed what happens, is a new concept in Oakland. Here’s hoping for restraint regardless of the score.

Lighten up

For all the fans outraged at actor/comedian Jay Mohr’s guest column on the CNN-SI Web site in which he trashes the Raiders and their fans, chill out.

It’s comedy. Seizing upon a stereotype and making fun of it. It’s only insulting if you’re taking things way too seriously.

“Why do the Raiders commit so many penalties?,” Mohr writes. “I figure the players must look into the stands, see all the criminals and start leg-whipping and shoving just to fit in. It’s hard to play by the rules when every time you look up Darth Vader and a gorilla are staring back at you.”

The story contains much, much worse. Or better, depending on your sense of humor. Log on at your own risk.

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Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer