The 49ers and Raiders will hit the O.Co field Sunday afternoon in a battle of two teams flaunting completely different kinds of disappointment.
For the Raiders, who finally cleared a monstrous amount of cap space and enjoyed a full slate of draft picks for the first time in years, the disappointment stems from an inability to show any significant progress from the failure that has plagued the franchise for over a decade.
For the 49ers, who spent the offseason trying to improve their passing game while simultaneously swatting away report after report of internal turmoil, the disappointment is one of underachievement and failing to keep up with the Joneses in a division which has undergone a renaissance that they themselves initiated.
One team will walk off of the field Sunday suffering a loss, and carrying with them yet another week of disappointing results. But both teams can avoid a different kind of embarrassment — one that happens not on the field, but off of it.
You should know where I’m going with this by now, and it seems ludicrous that I should even have to write it. And yet here I am, anticipating another battle of these cross-bay “rivals” and envisioning the headlines:
“Two men shot in parking lot following 49ers-Raiders game”
“Man in critical condition after attack in stadium bathroom”
“Vicious brawl in stands caught on tape during rivalry game”
Perhaps it’s unavoidable in football — a sport that feeds our tenacious and probably carnal appetite for violence — but inter-fan fighting is nevertheless a completely unacceptable side dish to watching this game.
What drives people to do it, I will never understand. I’m sure alcohol plays an integral role in it, but no one expects you not to drink if you’re headed out to the Coliseum this weekend. We just expect you to behave like an adult.
This post won’t reach nearly enough people to get the message across, and even if it was required reading for every person that walked through the turnstiles Sunday, some people would just ignore it.
But the world will be watching Sunday; not to see how the 49ers and Raiders perform on the field, but to see how we, as a community, respond to a friendly rivalry in a meaningless football game.
Christmas is fast approaching, and this year’s holiday season has been particularly rough for our country. In cities from coast to coast, people have been marching in an effort to stand up against violence. Many have been marching in the streets of Oakland and San Francisco.
So how about acting the part? How nice would it be to finally get through a 49ers-Raiders game without reports of shootings, or stabbings, or bloody brawls? How nice would it be to see some headlines that spin the narrative of 49ers and Raiders fans finally getting along and enjoying a freaking football game?
It starts with personal responsibility: Introduce yourself to your neighbors. Be friendly. Lay out your feelings about the game. Be the bigger man and keep your mouth shut if someone seems volatile. Have some thick skin. But most importantly, say something if you see something. Security will be abundant, and they’re there to keep you and your family and friends safe. Utilize them.
Rivalries are what make sports fun, and this 49ers-Raiders rivalry hasn’t been fun for a long time. Let’s get back to that this Sunday. Be safe out there. Represent your city, your team, and yourself with dignity and honor.