I was born on February 29, 1976 in a small Upstate NY city called Utica. It just happened to be the same year the, then, Oakland Raiders had their very first Superbowl winning season. I was 11 months old for that victory.
My father played football for our local high school, and introduced me to the game pretty early on. I started playing Pop-Warner Football in 1984, after the now Las Angeles Raiders had won two more titles. In 1985 I lost my father to a battle of depression. The Vietnam War really took it's toll on him. That loss took a toll on me. I quit playing all sports at that time and went into a funk that took many years to get out of.
I stopped playing sports, but I never stopped loving them, and started, really paying attention to NFL football around 1988. I instantly became a Raiders fan, as they were the only team that I felt played the way I always wanted too. Hard, through the whistle, and sometimes past it. They also were always either the Prime Time game or were the 4pm game in Upstate NY. Without any special devices I could watch them play 10+ times a year.
In the summer of 1989 an old acquaintance of mine accidentally turned my life around. I was hanging out with the same people he was when he asked me why I stopped playing football. He then told me I should come out for the team, and that practices were starting in a week. He told me he remembered when I played back-in-the-day and said I was good. He was the first person, not in my family, to tell me I was good at something. I dropped everything and started playing on the first practice. It took me about a week to show the coaches how I could play, and was starting on both sides of the ball.
By my senior year of high school I was named the MVP of the offensive line and made the all league team at Tackle. By that time I was totally out of my funk, and beginning to love life.
Right around the same time as I was getting back into football I was studying the history of the Raiders. Quickly, Al Davis became my childhood hero. I wanted to be as much like him as I could. He was a maverick, and brilliant in all his outside-the-box ideas, and he had the respect of all the other owners, whether they liked him or not. And, he didn't care if they did.
In 1995 I had been in a local Community College for one year, when the Raiders moved back to Oakland. I remember the feeling I had, that they really belonged there. It was a special season, even if it was a hard one for the team.
The 2002 season is the first time I was able to witness MY team playing in a Superbowl. Gannon to Rice, Gannon to Brown, Gannon to Porter, Garner out of the backfield, Woodson locking down the best WR. Those were special times to be part of Raider Nation.
I was able to travel to my Mecca for the first time in 2008. It was September 28. Chargers at the Raiders. I was going to get to see my boys live, and dressed in black. Accept, Lane Kiffen decided to dress the team in white that day, for the only time in history. What's the chances? It was a Raiders loss that day, and Janikowski missed the dumbest field goal ever attempted, a 76 yarder.
In 2011 I returned to Oakland and was able to watch MY team get a victory over the Jets. Darren McFadden ripped a huge run in that game, and I made the play-call my ringtone, so I could relive it over and over.
My passion for the Raiders, and knowledge of their history is unmistakable. My friends used to make fun of me, because, within 5 minutes of meeting anybody new, I would tell them I am a Raider Fan. I feel like Raider Nation is a lifestyle. The people who are part of it get it. Everyone else just wishes it was that important to them.
Now being the Las Vegas Raiders, the future of MY team is as bright as the lights on the Vegas Strip. Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock have this team in a win now position and the youngsters have this team in position to win for a long time. It's a great time to be a Raider. And, a great time to be part of the ONLY One True Nation... Raider Nation!
JP Raider and Sister