The only thing that tempered the scorching temperatures at the Raiders training camp last Friday was the soul-cooling feeling of hope that appears this same time each year.
While Raider fans having hope after spending years in NFL purgatory is a punchline to fans of other teams, we have genuine reasons to be at least cautiously optimistic.
First, the draft was easily one of the best the team has had in years and thankfully didn’t include the headscratcher pick that became a distracting headline. They also added key veterans including Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley.
Besides the players, the organization seems to have a different feel compared to years past. The first time I went to training camp in 2008, I paid for rookie columnist mistakes. I didn’t bring any water and none was provided there. Luckily the overpriced bottled tap water they sold at the Napa Marriott had handy financing options.
There also were no bathrooms on the practice fields. I wondered where players went. I got my answer when a receiver ran to some ivy in the back corner. I was pretty sure that was not an option for the press.
This year, bottled water was not only available, but was delivered by staff to both the press and the couple hundred or so fans sitting on metal bleachers (that probably felt like George Foreman grills). Port-a-potties were available and also there were two canopies set up; one hawking Raiders gear and the other foodstuffs. Press credential check-in was a breeze.
After some drills, a loud horn sounded and Guns’N” Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle” blared. The way the press and fans were treated and the music playing was all new and created a pleasant environment. The media in the past was treated like adversaries so it was nice to feel cared for and welcome.
One hilarious thing to me were fans yelling at coaches and players like the way I, and I assume they, do at their TVs at home. The difference was they were not harping at an HD screen, but the actual Raiders.
In my camp columns I don’t usually get into who made what spectacular catch or awesome throw or anything like that. Training camp is where systems are implemented, players build muscle memory and individuals develop camaraderie and hopefully jell into a cohesive team.
But I have been around long enough to have seen several Training Camp All-Stars become invisible during the real season.
Bottom line, I’m just glad football and my Raiders are back. While chuckling at Peyton Manning Superbowl memes does not get old, I am ready for some football.
Reach Fairfield fanalist—part fan, part journalist—Tony Wade at firstname.lastname@example.org