FANning the Fire

By Dan McLellan and Ron Donoho / Photos by Mike Nowak

The Raider Nation is a traveling freak show: Oakland Raiders fans follow their football team en masse, dressed in horror flick costumes with their faces painted black and silver.

Ah, the inhumanity.

The Raiders are coming to San Diego December 30 to battle the Chargers in the final game of the NFL 's regular season. When these two division rivals square off, as they've been doing twice each year, it's easy to tell - these guys truly dislike each other.

"Luckily, lately, I have been having good games up there," says Chargers wide receive Malcolm Floyd. "They are rivals, too, so you kind of get more amped up for that game."

Last year, the Chargers eliminated the Raiders from postseason contention in the final game of the regular season, with a 38-26 victory in Oakland. The Raiders would love to return the favor.

Whether the Bolts win or lose, many San Diegans regard the influx of Raiders fans, some of whom arrive ready and eager to start stadium and bar-room brawls, as bad news for the community.

Case in point: when the 2003 Super Bowl was played in San Diego, and one of the teams competing in that championship game was Oakland (they lost!), a local company ran a series of TV ads that showed people nervously locking up doors and windows. The on-screen text included four frames:

"THE RAIDERS FANS ARE HERE."
"NOT EVERYONE IS THRILLED ABOUT THIS."
"WE ARE."
"KING STAHLMAN BAIL BONDS."

Those hooligan Raiders fans have bragging rights, as their team has the upper hand in the all-time match-up (58-46-2). But several stretches have seen one team dominate the other, and that has heated up the rivalry.

Carson Palmer in a regular-season game last year" src="http://www.pacificsandiego.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/111011_OAKvsSD_MN_414.jpg" alt="" width="370" height="302" />The Chargers won the first six meetings, from 1960-62, outscoring the Raiders by a combined 251-98 points. Back then, Oakland was the laughingstock of football, and Al Davis served as an offensive coach for the Chargers.

When Davis defected from San Diego in 1963, he was hired as the Raiders head coach and general manager. The Raiders beat the Chargers twice that year; and from 1968-77, Oakland was victorious in 18 consecutive meetings.

In the 1980 AF C Championship game (played in San Diego), the Raiders beat the Chargers, 34-27, and went on to become the first wild-card team to win a Super Bowl.

San Diego turned the tide in recent years, winning 15 of the last 18 games, including a 13-game win streak from 2003-09. But the Chargers have never won a Super Bowl, and Oakland has three rings. And it sucks (and tempers flare) when those silver-and-black demons start barking about that in the parking lot.

It Takes Balls

The rivalry between the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders hit a pinnacle in 1978 - after the ridiculously refereed "Holy Roller Game."

Playing at home, the Chargers had a 20-14 lead with 10 seconds remaining. On the last play, Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler intentionally fumbled the ball forward as he was being sacked by linebacker Woodrow Lowe.

Raiders running back Pete Banaszak batted the ball at the 12-yard line, and then tight end Dave Casper knocked the ball from the 2-yard line into the end zone, where he fell on it to steal a 21-20 victory.

Chargers Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts remains haunted by the play. "It still blows my mind how the referees could not see what it was or discern exactly what happened," Fouts has said. "Woodrow Lowe clearly got a sack on Stabler, and he shuffled the ball forward. It wasn't a fumble; I mean he threw the ball."

Sometimes, cheaters win.

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