PHOENIX — Could the Black Hole turn on the Raiders?
With the team approved to move from Oakland to Las Vegas by the 2020 season, there certainly is a chance that fans who normally would show up to root for the Raiders at home games will be so spurned that they take their frustrations out on the players and coaches. Or, perhaps even deliver a preemptive break-up and stop showing up to games altogether.
Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said he doesn’t think that will happen. But he can’t be certain.
“I would say I doubt it,” Del Rio said at the NFL annual meeting on Tuesday. “I doubt it because the first thing we have to do is play well and earn it, that’s where it starts. I’m banking on us doing well. If we do well enough people will be excited to watch it.”
It certainly will be an odd dynamic.
“There is that element where there will be a certain number of people that are disappointed to the point where they can’t come and support any more, and that’s understandable,” Del Rio said. “We’ll just see what that number is. If that number grows to a lot then obviously we’ll adjust that line of thinking. I’d be surprised.”
This isn’t the first time Del Rio is involved in a Raiders move, although last time it was far less directly. He grew up in Northern California as a fan of the team and then went to college at USC.
“I happened to be at Southern Cal the last time they left,” he said. “It was sad then for my family and friends . . . but I was pretty fired up when I was at Southern Cal that my team was there. So there were mixed emotions.”
Del Rio also mentioned that he will reach out to the former Raiders who have been through relocations, and he noted former quarterback Jim Plunkett as someone from whom he would seek opinions.
“Make sure we learn some of the issues, some of the pitfalls, some of the problems,” he said. “Let’s address them and handle them the best we can. For some, they’re unavoidable. It’s just part of the growing pain of picking up from where you are and going somewhere else.”
Of course, not all Raiders fans are based in Oakland.
“The Raider Nation travels well,” Del Rio said. “We draw globally… I’m sure there are some people who are angry, and it’s understandable. But there are diehards and to them, it won’t matter where we play.”