I have heard disquieting rumors. I have heard that a few Raider fans are alive and active in San Diego. In fact, I have heard that there have been a number of defections from the ranks of Charger fans.
San Diegans would cheer for the Dodgers, Pascual Perez, Detroit's fans, Donald Sterling and Brigham Young University before they would cheer for the guys wearing the silver and black.
Indeed, they even have little tolerance for the colors. Silver and black. Not too many years ago, a San Diego man jokingly wore a black shirt and silver and black vest to work on the Friday before a Raider game and got hit in the face by two pies.
That is the way it was with this rivalry.
However, the Chargers have not exactly been on top of their world of late. They have had back-to-back losing seasons, and seem well on their way to a less than charming third in a row.
How disgruntled are these fans? The no-shows began to manifest themselves toward the end of the 1983 season and grew in number through 1984. It has now become a matter of not buying rather than not showing.
Staying away, thus, becomes a form of selective shopping. Staying away is American.
But defecting is not. Could it possibly be that true-blue, sold-on-the-gold Charger fans would slip through the barbed-wire into the Raider camp? Naw.
This possibility was brought to my attention, as might have been expected, by a group of Raider fans. When the Chargers and the Raiders met in a Monday night game a year ago, these fellows happened to be in town. They called and asked where they might go, and I told them I couldn't think of anywhere they might fit--with the possible exception of the Metropolitan Correctional Center.
Real funny, they said. They would find a place.
Later, chortling after the Raiders had won, 33-30, they called me from a place called Tubaman's Grandslam.
"You shoulda been here," they said. "Raider fans outnumbered Charger fans. The place was wild."
I remembered that call on Monday. I would visit Tubaman's, assuming it had not been boarded up for treasonous activity.
When I pulled up in front, I was concerned that I might be seen. I looked around for laundry vans, thinking the cops might be using one as a command post for surveillance. I checked the cars for silver and black bumper stickers. No one in trench coats seemed to be lurking in the bushes.
I walked in the door expecting to encounter a scene out of the Pirates of the Caribbean. These were Raider fans, right?
The crowd seemed excited, ready for something good to happen. I just didn't know what they would consider good. I instructed my companion to keep a low profile, and ordered a pitcher of beer.
Groooooaaaaaaan! Dan Fouts had been intercepted by Mike Haynes, and the Raiders were in Charger territory. Chris Bahr kicked a 20-yard field goal for the Raiders. Scattered applause, as if each table had a token subversive.
This did not sound like an uproariously pro-Raider crowd. No one was dancing in the aisles, but, then again, it was only 3-0.
Geeeeeet 'iiiiimmm! The Raiders' Jessie Hester swept right end for 13 yards--and a touchdown. Again scattered applause, probably distant cousins of Al Davis.
These seemed to be Charger fans, waiting for something good to happen--if it ever would.
Rooooaaaarrr! Bahr had missed a 45-yard field goal. Fouts threw for 14 yards to Wes Chandler and the patrons were pounding the tables, my pitcher of beer shaking like Joaquin Andujar. Moments later, Fouts passed to Gary Anderson, who left the Raiders' Jeff Barnes checking for his wallet and raced into the end zone. Make that roar thunderous.
There were cheers when Todd Christensen dropped a pass, and a collective dammit when he caught one (of quite a few). There was a wall-to-wall gasp when Fouts was sacked by Rod Martin and a chant of "woo woo woo" when Marcus Allen fumbled. It was quiet when Allen hurdled for a touchdown, his second, and quieter yet when he later scored his third.
Meanwhile, I was awaiting my Bevaqua Special, a hot dog with chili. Kurt will have to excuse the spelling of his name, but that's the way it was on the menu.
"I'd like to get it by halftime," I grumbled.
"If it's named after Bevacqua," my companion advised me, "it can't be very fast."
The hot dog came in the third quarter, and it disappeared at about the same time the Chargers did. There was a little electricity early in the period when Anderson scored his second touchdown, and then the Raiders pulled the plug. The groans became more and more frequent, and the celebrations brief.
More and more often, the camera caught Fouts peeling himself off the grass or the stern-faced Don Coryell standing like he was trying to keep from breaking the eggs in his armpits. It was about as pretty as a Raider.
By 8:30, the score was 31-14. Those who had started the evening hoping for something good to happen were now occupying themselves with video games, darts and table shuffleboard. Conversations soon overwhelmed the sounds of the telecasters, just as Alzado, Long & Company had overwhelmed the local heroes.
These were definitely Charger fans. You can ignore any rumors that they had fled to the other side of the fence, the shady side where the grass is silver and black.
If my ears had not convinced me, their eyes did. If they were not Charger fans, why were they looking the other way in the fourth quarter?