Raiders relocation leaves murky future for diehard ‘Black Hole’
On Monday afternoon, two hours after NFL owners voted to allow the Oakland Raiders to become the Las Vegas Raiders, super fan Dr. Death was reborn as his human alter-ego, Ray Perez of West Sacramento.
A diehard season ticket holder, regular force in the raucous Black Hole since 2009, and staple at city council meetings focused on keeping the Raiders in Oakland, Perez tearfully denounced his support for the fleeing franchise during a live video.
— Dr.Death (@26DrDeath) March 27, 2017
“This isn’t just a football team leaving us, this is a culture and identity,” Perez said. “In good conscious I cannot give any more of my time to this franchise. This is family, and it’s gone. “
Perhaps gone in spirit but not in actuality. Not yet. The Raiders will remain in Oakland for the 2017 and 2018 seasons, and may share Levi’s Stadium with the 49ers in 2019 while waiting for their Las Vegas home to be built for the 2020 season.
Perez’s separation was difficult though as instantaneous as ripping off a Bandaid. He had previously announced his intention to drop out of Raiders Nation the second relocation was announced.
The absence of Perez’s silver and black striped pants and hat adorned with a row of cleavers will alter the aesthetic of the Black Hole during the transition. Judging by the flame throwing on social media after the news was announced, there will surely be others that follow suit in Perez’s footsteps.
Wayne Mabry aka The Violator is not among them. Mabry, a longtime Southern California resident who hasn’t missed a home game in 20 years, has plans to maintain his unbelievably dedicated routine for Raiders home games. Wake up at 2:30 A.M. Drive six-to-seven hours to Oakland. Spend 90 minutes intricately putting on silver and black makeup. Watch the game. Drive home.
Mabry was prepared for this fateful day to come. “I’m torn. As much as my heart aches, I realize it’s a business,” he says.
Though not a recently cut NFL player, the now retired Mabry sure sounds resigned to the NFL’s heartless pivots, That’s because he’s experienced surprises with this franchise before. In 1982, after two years of legal battles, then owner Al Davis won an antitrust lawsuit that paved the way for relocation from Oakland to Los Angeles.
“There was no announcement made, they just moved,” Mabry recalls.
During most of the the Raiders’ second tour in Oakland, then owner Al Davis never got sweeping stadium improvements he so frequently sought. So while Mabry is heartbroken about the Raiders’ latest migration, he takes a more historical glance.
“I’m happy to see them getting a first class stadium. It’s what Al wanted. It was an embarrassment to have us in a stadium so outdated.” Mabry says. “ If I saw Mark [Davis], I would say ‘congrats on making your father’s dream come true.’”
Unlike Perez, Mabry will continue his run as a season-ticket holder though he is concerned with the exorbitant costs associated with Las Vegas. He also knows that Vegas can’t possibly replicate the energy and grittiness of the Raiders’ current home. “Oakland is like mecca,” he says.
Shortly after making the announcement, Davis announced that season ticket holders who already put down a deposit would be eligible to receive a refund if they so chose.
That’s not good enough for Mark Acasio, also known as Gorilla Rilla. He knew the writing was on the wall when three months ago the Raiders sent a survey to season tickets holders asking among other questions, whether or not they would travel to Las Vegas. Ever since, Acasio has been focused on how the move could destroy a tight knit community.
“The spirit and morale of Oakland is so strong,” he says. “From the mom and pop store to the gas station to players doing events around the community. The Raiders inspired kids and families to get excited.”
Acasio had a visceral reaction to the news — “my stomach fell out of my body,” he says — but mostly he feels shunned. Like he is suddenly in an intensely unhealthy relationship.
“I keep saying to my wife, ‘This is like you telling me you love me but you’re going to go back to your ex in two years,’” he says.
Still Acasio has no designs on walking away from the Raiders. He has already been to 28 stadiums, and flown to both London and Mexico City in recent years for the Raiders international games. An hour flight to Vegas will hardly deter this 21-year season ticker holder.
But the reality is that every diehard will not be making the same investment, be it for emotional or financial reasons. This fervent fan base currently in Oakland, the “special ingredient for the recipe” as Acasio calls them, won’t have the same makeup in Las Vegas.
“These people in Oakland have become family, and suddenly we won’t see each other quite as much.”