Las Vegas Sun

September 18, 2021

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox

Forget the outcome; Raiders’ Allegiant debut with fans was an event

Raiders pregame

Christopher DeVargas

Fans pose for a photo Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, with Darkside Demon in front of Allegiant Stadium. The Raiders hosted the Ravens for the season premiere of “Monday Night Football.” Because of coronavirus restrictions a year ago, Monday was Las Vegas’ first regular-season home game with fans in their year-old, billion-dollar stadium.

Raiders Fans at Home Opening Game

Raiders fans pose for a photo with Darkside Demon in front of Allegiant Stadium before the Las Vegas Raiders's first home game of the season against the Baltimore Ravens, Monday Sept. 13, 2021. This is the first game with fans attending. Launch slideshow »

A few Raiders fans among the masses walking across Hacienda Bridge on the way to Allegiant Stadium were passionately chanting, “Raid-ers, Raid-ers” in unison to start their game day party Monday.

They encountered two Ravens fans each wearing a Lamar Jackson jersey, to which one of the Raider fans screamed, “Purple is ugly. This is silver-and-black country.”

Yes, it is.

It was a historic night near the Las Vegas Strip as the Raiders showed off their new building during a “Monday Night Football” win against the Ravens in the first regular season game with fans in the two-year history of the stadium because of pandemic restrictions.

In a city of legendary shows and noteworthy nights of entertainment, the fans made the evening downright memorable and worthy of many encores. The Raider experience, from pregame tailgating to living and dying with each play, is unlike any other.

One fan wore an all-white track suit with his hair slicked back to pay homage to franchise patriarch Al Davis, who used to famously stand on the sideline at Raider’s games looking dapper in all white. Another had his face and hair painted silver and black, and also wore shoulder pads with spikes through a Howie Long jersey. Everyone seemed to have a jersey on — sporting the names of current quarterback Derek Carr to legends such as Bo Jackson, Tim Brown and Lyle Alzado.

This felt like the house-warming party at someone’s forever home, except with $16 beers, a national television audience and thousands of like-minded friends.

Many traveled in from California, raving about not having to worry about the Oakland A’s making the baseball playoffs and forcing the then-Oakland Raiders into more games contested on the partial dirt field at the shared RingCentral Coliseum.

The general consensus Monday night: A legendary franchise finally has a fitting home. And Raider Nation is willing to commute to be part of the excitement, sensing the new beginning could help elevate the franchise’s chances to be a consistent winner. (The Raiders last won a playoff game in 2002 before losing the Super Bowl to Tampa Bay; since then, they’ve made it to the postseason once, losing in the 2016 wildcard round.)

“The Coliseum looked like a swap meet,” said Jeremy Ingle, a fan who traveled in from California. “Look at this place, and being on “Monday Night Football” — that’s how it’s supposed to be.”

Those silver-and-black diehards were also willing to receive at least one dose of the COVID vaccine to attend, as the Raiders are one of a handful of franchises across the league with a vaccine requirement for fans attending games. Fewer than 2,000 surrendered their season tickets after the mandate, ESPN reported.

Click to enlarge photo

Trinidad Verduzco, of Fresno, Calif., waits in line for a COVID-19 vaccination before entering Allegiant Stadium for the Raiders’ regular-season opener — their first official game with fans in Las Vegas, on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021. The Raiders require fans to be vaccinated for entry to their home games.

Trinidad Verduzco of Fresno, Calif., resisted getting vaccinated until he arrived at Allegiant, where he joined hundreds of others to get inoculated in a tent outside the stadium simply to attend the game. His love of the team trumped his hesitancy because, “This is an epic night. First game with fans in Vegas. I wasn’t going to miss,” he said.

Same for the other 61,745 fans in attendance who seemingly cheered from start to finish. Gone was the empty building and silence of last season, replaced by the constant roars of energetic fans, in-house music and anticipation of each play.

Take early in the first quarter when Carr dropped back to pass, saw Henry Ruggs III race downfield with nobody covering him, and listen to the crowd gasp with high hopes. On this play, Carr didn’t see the wide-open receiver, and the fans oohed and aahed thinking what could have been. The fans’ high hopes were paid off in overtime when Carr hit a wide-open Zay Jones for 31-yard game-winning touchdown. Final: Raiders 33, Ravens 27.

The Raiders are hoping to craft a home-city advantage similar to the NHL’s Golden Knights. It’s nearly impossible for the road team to win in the Golden Knights’ “Fortress.” While the Raiders’ Las Vegas lid-lifter produced a thrilling overtime win against a strong Baltimore team, the outcome — I can’t believe I am writing this ­— was secondary to the event.

The Raiders have their new home where there will be many parties on Sundays for years to come. And, more important, Las Vegas is firmly entrenched as not only a NFL city, but one of the best NFL cities worthy of a national television audience.

Not bad for Night One with our “Raid-ers.