Black Flag Network Announcement
The Black Flag Network (BFN) enthusiastically raises an ice cold Bass Ale to welcome the addition of “Across the Silver and Black Pond” as a new commentator to the Oakland Raiders experience.
“Across the Silver and Black Pond” brings a unique perspective to the life of a Raider fan. Blogging passionately about his viewpoints on the Raiders by way of the United Kingdom, LeighRaider wittily shows that the Raider Nation has no geographical boundaries.
The BFN looks forward to continually building a positive rapport with the Raider Nation. The following Q & A is a means of introducing Raider fans to “Across the Silver and Black Pond” and shedding some new light on how a Brit became a card carrying member of the Raider Nation.
Calico Jack: Tell us how an Englishman became a die hard Raiders fan? When did you begin to follow American football and how did you become a fan of the Raiders in particular?
LeighRaider: We first got the NFL broadcast in the UK in 1982, which was good timing because there was no soccer being shown at the time here due to a TV rights dispute, and we only had four TV channels at that time which gave us some terrible Sunday evening programming. So the introduction of this new sport had little competition for viewers, and it was obviously very new to us. It was fast and colourful, there was hard physical contact and there were Cheerleaders!
People picked their teams for various reasons, alot would choose the first team they saw on the TV and that’s probably why the Dolphins have had a good fan base here because they were on the first show. I think some people picked from the name of the team or location. For me it was much easier, it was the sight of some bloke flying by on a highlight segment wearing Silver and Black, how can that not seal it for you?
Raider Take: When did you begin to follow American football and how did you become a fan of the Raiders in particular?
LeighRaider: The NFL took off in quite a big way over the next few years here and as well as the following of the game on TV every week with live games and highlight shows, teams sprang up here at an amateur level. On a personal level it all coincided with meeting a group of people who are our circle of friends today, and a couple of them were Raiders fans too. In those early days of the Channel 4 coverage here, it was rare to get the Raiders games, as they would try to spread games between all of the teams, so a lot of the time we would have to resort to listening to Armed Forces Network radio. The signal was weak and sometimes intermittent but we crowded around it every week in a bedroom because that was the only part of my house where it worked.
So with a combination of Sunday live coverage, weekly highlight TV shows, the radio, and the UK's weekly NFL magazine - First Down, we became big fans pretty quickly. We got to see the Raiders play in London in 1990, only pre-season I know, but we pestered someone at Wembley Stadium to let us into the Raider practice the day before the game, so got to see some of our heroes up close like Howie Long and an un-suited Lyle Alzado. We were also watching our Britball team Manchester Spartans home and away, and when the World League kicked off with the Monarchs we were there too. Following the Raiders got easier as the TV coverage got better, but its a lot easier post internet and satellite TV where we now have multiple NFL sources to choose from.
CJ: Please share with us one of the highlights of your recent trip to Oakland.
LR: We've been to Oakland three times now and each trip has had its highlights. To be honest every time we come over the a constant highlight to us is Ricky's in San Leandro, that’s our first port of call after the 11 hour flight, and generally our last too. That's where we first got a taste for what the Raider Nation is all about, we were supposed to be calling in there on our first trip as we'd heard about it, and ended up leaving a few hours later, very drunk, so much so that Tina had to take us back to the BART. In fact people we met on that first day in Ricky's are now old friends who treat us like family when we are in the Bay Area.
The game day is the ultimate highlight, after all those years watching on TV and listening to dodgy radio feeds. Everything from the tailgate to the game and just seeing the game live. We will ignore the fact that we have still to see a win though. The tailgate is always great for us, because there is nothing like it here, if you turned up at a soccer stadium with a grill they would look at you like you had gone mad. We have always had great company on our game days. We hang out with our good friend's from Hayward and this year were welcomed into the South Shield fold. The Raider Nation is as advertised and the hospitality and camaraderie is always great.
Another big deal to us, having been fans from so far away for so long, is meeting players who we had only seen on TV or read about. On our first visit we met Jim Plunkett in a San Francisco restaurant and Kenny King and Rod Martin in Ricky's. This time around it was John Vella, Mike Davis, Derek Ramsey and Mr. Rod Martin again. The ex players always have time for you and are usually surprised that they are known by a bunch of Brits.
RT: How easy or difficult is it to catch Raiders games on television in England? When and how are they aired, and do you have any viewing rituals?
LR: We have really good satellite TV coverage these days. We get the choice of two of the early games, two late games and the Sunday and Monday night games. We get all the playoffs live through to the Superbowl, and get NFL Total Access every day which has worked pretty well so far. We even had the Chiefs road game via a link from El Salvador TV. Yahoo run a subscription service on the net too where you can watch any of the games, so I've taken that up for the remainder of the season now. You get to watch the games as much as you like until Tuesday or Wednesday, so I think I'm on my 3rd showing of the win over the Donkey's now, it gets better each time.
Our usual viewing ritual would be all sat in front of our respective computer screens armed with beer and an instant message chatroom open to talk about the game as it unfolds, although now that I have a definite good quality NFL licensed feed through Yahoo last week involved us all sitting around my screen with beer, which most likely will be repeated until the end of the season.
CJ: Who is your all time favorite Raider? Who is your favorite player on this year’s squad?
LR: Tough to name just one favourite all time Raider. There would be Vann McElroy, Howie, Lyle, The Wiz, Steve Smith. We love some of the older players too but these were the ones that we sort of grew up with football-wise. Current squad favourites would be Kirk Morrison, Ron Curry, and I really like how Chris Clemons is progressing.
RT: Are you a novelty in your town/region as a Raiders and NFL fan, or would we be surprised at how many NFL fans there are in your neighborhood?
LR: We could definitely be classed as a novelty where we live. It's not a big town so there's only the six of us that we know of. Across the country there is still a real hardcore following for the NFL in general, which was reflected in the ticket requests for the recent Dolphins/Giants game, something like 500,000 applications which is incredible really. I wouldn't like to say what proportion of us are Raider fans but we have always been well represented.
CJ: What prompted you to start your own Raiders blog?
LR: The Blog started as a bit of a laugh really, with mates here reading it, well it's mostly still them now really! You guys should take a bow at this point .I read Sean's Blog first, sorry Chris you weren't far behind! I fancied a crack at it myself from a standpoint of being a fan over here.I used to read Deadspin quite a lot too, and a Blog falling somewhere between you guys and them would be the feel that I was going for.I got some good early feedback from a friend of mine, which was important, because if it had been really terrible he would have let me know, I think he was surprised that some of it made sense somewhere along the line.
RT: What's your take on JaMarcus Russell--should we continue to simply dip his toe in the water this season, or just dive in and give him some starts before the season is over?
LR: I think that Kiffin might be just about getting right with Russell. If this week was the blueprint for the remainder of the season, I see him getting valuable game time experience while not having any real pressure on his shoulders regarding the outcome of the game. He may get a start but I see the Coach taking it slowly for now, it worked out well against Denver, and we would all like to see a couple more wins at least. It's tempting to want to see more but he will hopefully be the Raiders QB for a long time to come.
CJ: Going forward, what are your expectations for the Raiders in 2008?
LR: My expectations for 2008 have been changing as the season has. After the last couple of weeks, and the debut of JaMarcus Russell, I think that things are looking pretty good. Lane Kiffin has kept the team "In" during that rough six week losing streak and I think that we have a good nucleus to build around next year. Free agency and the draft will have to fill some important spots on the team, as with any club, but I think that we are in capable hands for the first time since Gruden was in charge. I wouldn't like to say how much of an improvement we can make as far as making the post season is concerned but I think we are going to be competitive in the Division again, which is an important progression after the last few years.
Cheers lads & Raise the Black Flag!