Football weekend for true Raiders diehards begins the night before the game, when members of the 66th Mob camp out along 66th Avenue to ensure their tailgating spots in the Coliseum parking lot. Tailgating is the lifeblood of the Raider Nation, because everyone would go broke trying to get fat and drunk off the pricey Coliseum concessions.
On game day, the parking lot opens around 8 a.m., five hours before kickoff, and fills up quickly. Barbecue and beverages are abundant. According to one fan site, southside tailgating (lots B and C) is more low-key than the north side (lots A and D), although a Clovis couple got assaulted in Lot C last season.
When it gets close to kickoff, it's time to go inside the Network Associates Coliseum (7000 Coliseum Way) and enter The Black Hole, the section behind the south end-zone and home to such face-painted characters as Darth Raider and Violator and others in need of serious therapy. A serious word of warning: Do not go strutting the opposing team's jersey near the Black Hole.
A favorite place for local fans to buy their jerseys and silver-and-black accessories is Vella's Locker Room, owned by former Raider right tackle John Vella, who has five Bay Area locations including his original store in Castro Valley (3052 Castro Valley Blvd.). He also sells stuff online (VellasLockerRoom.com) -- anything from standard caps and uniforms to Raiders baby pacifiers and ashtrays.
If you can't make it to the game, there's always Ricky's Sports Theater & Grill (15028 Hesperian Blvd., San Leandro). Ricky's is filled to the ceiling with televisions and Raiders memorabilia. While you watch the game you can order a variety of Raider-themed menu items like the Raiders Burger ($8.95) or the jaw-busting Jack "The Assassin"; Tatum Sandwich (lean pastrami, pepperjack cheese, onions, lettuce, and tomatoes on a French roll) for $9.95.
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