The term “Nation” to describe the Raiders’ following derives in large part from the sheer magnitude of its numbers. This term is both literal and figurative because it not only refers to a group so large that they could form their own country, but the mere fact that the team has fans stretched across the country and even the world. And if they aren’t there already, they “have loyalty, will travel”.
I have seen evidence of this first hand at several Raider games in both Arizona and San Diego. In each instance, it was sometimes very difficult to tell which was the home team. I can’t speak for many other locations but just ask Denver Post staff writer Bill Briggs(no fan of the Raiders) who in a 2005 article wrote, “The Raiders may be the second-most popular team in Denver, as they are in other National Football League cities. Nationally, Raiders gear outsold other teams’ jerseys three out of the past four years, according to the NFL.”
Former Raider, Rickey Dudley, was quoted in the St. Petersburg Times as saying, “It’s amazing. Although you go to a lot of places and there are fans there from everywhere, I’ll have to say that in my years I don’t think I have ever seen fans like [the Raiders’]. They follow you to the cities and to the hotels. You get there and the lobbies are full of Raider fans. You know why they call it the Raider Nation? Because it’s nationwide. Miami, New York, wherever. You’re part of the Raider Nation. It’s so large. They say Dallas is America’s Team, well, I’m not so sure about that. The Raiders are beloved.”
Another former Raider, Randy Jordan, agreed: “It’s not Raider Club. It’s not Raider Fans. It’s Raider Nation. Wherever you go, you will find more than just a few fans. There’s never one Raider [fan], they come in droves.”
There are many theories as to what created Raider Nation. Some point to the working-class, multi-racial nature of the city of Oakland. Others give a nod to the us-against-the-world attitude spawned by Al Davis. Still others talk about the team’s aggressive, combative (and some say “dirty”) style of play during the 70s and 80s, when the Raiders won their three Super Bowls.
Chuck Noll, former coach of the Steelers, once described the Raider defensive backs as a “criminal element.” And Hunter S. Thompson (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), a Raider fan in the last years of his life, wrote, “The massive Raider Nation is beyond doubt the sleaziest and rudest and most sinister mob of thugs and wackos ever assembled.” A statement only a Raider fan could take as a compliment.
The Raider Nation has been the subject of a documentary film entitled, A Look Into The World of the Most Notorious Fans on the Planet: “The Raider Nation,” . In its review, Amazon.com states: “A cross between an English soccer match and a Halloween ball, an Oakland Raiders game is uniquely singular. From tailgate parties that start three days before the game, to legendary fanaticism both inside and outside of the stadium, the Raider Nation is a people worth exploring.”
This loyal fan base is also chronicled in the book “Better to Reign in Hell,” written by San Diego English professors Jim Miller and Kelly Mayhew, who are also Raider fans. The title is derived from an assertion by Satan in Paradise Lost by John Milton: “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.”.
The “Autumn Wind” poem was written by NFL Film’s Steve Sabol. Sam Spence wrote the music and it was narrated by the legendary John Facenda. The resulting anthem was coined “The Battle Hymn of the Raider Nation.” It was created in 1974 by NFL Films to accompany highlights from the Raiders games. That’s right, it was created three years before the Raiders had even won their first Superbowl.
Sports talk radio host and local Raider correspondent, JT the Brick, used a spinoff of the term “Raider Nation” to coin the term for the Raiders’ cross-bay rival, the “49er Empire.” The term “Raider Nation” has inspired many imitations — the “Steeler Nation,” the “Bronco Nation,” and the most notable as of late; the so-called “Red Sox Nation.” I even recently heard an ignorant Red Sox fan attempting to convince others that the Raiders actually stole the term “Nation” from them! This was likely a fan who was not even alive when the Raiders coined the phrase.
While the “Raider Nation” came about in the 70s, the phrase “Red Sox Nation” was first coined by Boston Globe feature writer Nathan Cobb in an October 20, 1986, article about split allegiances among fans in Connecticut between the Mets and the Red Sox in the 1986 World Series. So basically in its earliest form, “Red Sox Nation” was making reference to two fanbases fighting over one tiny little insignificant state like Connecticut (no offense to uh…Connecticut…ians?) But congrats on such a major accomplishment “Red Sox Half of Tiny Connecticut Station.”
The term “Red Sox Nation” was actually later popularized from the book At Fenway: Dispatches From Red Sox Nation by Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy in 1996. Which is OVER TWENTY YEARS AFTER the Raider Nation was already a global phenomenon. I would say that pretty much settles that argument.
The other teams regurgitating the term are obvious knockoffs which need not be mentioned but only serve to further pay homage to the far reaching loyalty of that which is “THE Raider Nation.” The ONE, the ONLY, the ORIGINAL.
But then again, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”