The Violator: My Emotional Farewell to the Oakland Raiders

Wayne Mabry has been a Raiders season ticket holder since 1987, and was one of the four original members of the The Black Hole, the ubiquitous group of die-hard fans donning spikes, masks and a lifetime supply of black and silver face makeup that have made them fixtures on television broadcasts. When the Raiders ditched Los Angeles for Oakland in 1994, Mabry, who resides near Riverside, decided that for eight days every fall, and a smattering of home playoffs game, he would trek up to the Bay Area, get a hotel and transform into his alter ego, The Violator. We asked Mabry to share his experience at the Raiders’ final home game and what he believes will happen to the Black Hole as the Oakland Raiders become the Las Vegas Raiders. 

Last Monday night was the last game the Raiders will play in Oakland. In every way, it felt like the end of an era. Nothing about the game against the Broncos felt normal.

I typically spend the two hours it takes to transform into The Violator in solitude, in my zone. But on this day ESPN was filming me so I was even more emotional. They were seeing the emotions, which I just couldn’t hide. Struck with the reality that many of us would be seeing each other for what may be the last time, it was bittersweet, and gut-wrenching. After all, my Black Hole brethren like Gorilla Rilla, Voodoo Man, Skull Lady, Darth Vader and so many others have become like family. We’ve been together for decades, we’ve seen each others’ children grow up.

Once I got to the Coliseum it was a different form of emotion, the kind that comes when your team is playing in the postseason. The Raiders had won just three games but even the parking lot on Monday Night felt like a playoff atmosphere.  The rain in no way dampened our spirits, either. Everyone’s attitude was to just party one last night.

Yet even with the positivity we still faced the music. I felt what many fans in Oakland felt: they were ripping our guts out.

I had a few surprise visitors to Section 106 before the final game kicked off. Mark Davis, Jon Gruden, Raiders president Mark Badain and other executives came by the front row of the Black Hole to thank me for my support.  It all felt so strange, especially because in the 24 years in Oakland I’ve never had a conversation with any of them close to that. It was like a goodbye party, except for Davis who said ‘we’ll see you in Vegas.’ But he doesn’t know I haven’t signed onto that deal.

I want to be in Vegas and in fact, I put a deposit on a PSL. But once I found out the tickets prices, especially for the sections I wanted to be in, I was priced right out. You see, I’m retired and on a fixed income and can’t really afford to stuff money into that.  When the opportunity presents itself I will definitely be up there, and I’ve got to figure out opening day. The idea of watching Raiders home games on television instead of in person sounds like being in a padded cell in the psych ward at San Quentin. Many other members of the Black Hole won’t be appearing in Vegas either.

My wife asked me why I didn’t take that moment with Mark Davis on Monday to mention I couldn’t afford the new stadium, but I simply didn’t want to feel like a dog at the doorstep. I’m also not sure the Las Vegas Raiders want us there.

I get the sense that they’re trying to change that culture that we’ve become known for.  I don’t know why, that’s the $2 billion question. When we played Kansas City earlier this season, they had the Vegas contingency filming us and watching. I don’t think they approved. They may believe all the stigmas like keep your wife and kids away or that we’re not family friendly. I take offense to that, especially as someone who does a lot of charitable work in this role. My mission is to change that perception. I was raised to not judge a book by its cover. You better read a couple of chapters to figure out what’s going on.

We’re the biggest supporters of the Raiders but some of the stuff I say probably makes the hair on the necks of the higher ups rise. I’m an ambassador for the fans and I’m giving you the blue-collar side of it whether corporate likes it or not. But I still believe it’s a good relationship all the way up to the top, and I understand the business side of things.

With any new construction I know that business will never stop because of our feelings or likes and dislikes, it’s about money at the end of the day.  I truly wish they didn’t have to move out of state to fulfill Al Davis’s vision of a state-of-the-art facility but the team has to worry about its own pocketbooks.

As someone who moved to California as a 21-year-old largely because I was transfixed by the Raiders’ toughness (and the palm trees I saw at The Rose Bowl), the reality of being priced out is painful. But it is reality.

The emotions built up toward the end of Monday night’s game, in which the players seemed to want to send us out in style. We embraced an early personal foul by our safety because it set the tone for the game, Jack Tatum-style. The Raiders beat the Broncos 27-14, notching their fourth win of the season.

As the game clock hit triple zeroes people around me were crying and sobbing. Some of the grown kids who were youngsters came over and said goodbye. I used extroverted mannerisms like my character does to keep the tears at bay. It was surreal.

It all really sunk in as I headed back to my hotel. Aside from the move out of Oakland, this was been a very tough year for the Raiders. In a quest to be respectful, I’m not sure I have the right words. But I stay dedicated because of the condition I’ve dubbed ‘Raidertudosis.’ It’s therapy for me, it keeps me sane. I can watch from afar but it’s not nearly the same. You never know how life shifts and I truly hope to cheer the Raiders on in person for years to come.

My track record as a fan should speak for itself, and if it doesn’t someone else can fill those shoes and try to do better.