SANTA CLARA (KPIX) — When the Raiders played the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium Sunday afternoon, it was the first time in 10 years that fans got to watch the two teams square off in a pre-season game. It turns out, the rivalry may be more intense in the stands than on the field.
The so-called “Battle of the Bay” used to happen every pre-season but, on Aug. 20, 2011, the Niners played the Raiders in a warm-up game at Candlestick. There were so many fights in the stands that night that the league banned the two teams from meeting in the preseason. The NFL finally gave permission for the teams to play in last year’s preseason but spectators were not allowed due to the pandemic.
For fans, the smack-talking drought ended Sunday. There were dueling tailgate parties at Levi’s Stadium as both teams’ fans gathered together after the long hiatus. A lot has changed for both teams: Candlestick is gone and the Raiders have moved to Nevada but the Raider Nation is still well-represented in the Bay Area.
“This is the closest thing that we’re gonna have to tailgating for the Raiders, you know what I mean?” said Raiders fan Steve Garcia.
“It’s a home game but it kinda seems like we’re visitors here. There’s a lot of Raider fans,” 49ers fan Eric Olsen observed.
It has always been a strange rivalry, since the two teams don’t play each other very often but their fans have always bumped heads a bit, sometimes even in the same household.
“We talk our smack but, at the end of the day, we both love each other,” said Raiders die-hard Andrew Ramirez. He proved it by pulling out a ring and asking his 49ers-fan girlfriend Sabrina Sandoval to marry him.
Inside the stadium, as the teams tuned up for the regular season on the field, fans needled each other in the stands.
“Feels like a home game! It’s a home game! This is a home game for us!” yelled one fan in Silver and Black as his friends chanted, “Raaaaaiders!” But things stayed cool. And maybe the threat of another 10-year ban made fans think twice about ruining the party.
“Seems like everybody’s doing a good job. Everybody’s behaving. Let’s keep it fun,” said Niners fan Robert Marquez.
Back out in the parking lot, Carlos Diaz was spinning vinyl records as the former official DJ of the “Black Hole.” He said his team hasn’t won a lot lately so he’s waiting for the Raiders to rebound before he does too much smack-talking. Waiting was difficult.
“This game is about throwing jabs back and forth but, in a right way — knowing when is enough,” Diaz said. “I always say, you gotta have someone to hate to have fun. But do it, you know, measured.”
Football is a game of passion but, like brothers, the two teams grew up together and the connection between them will always be a strong one.
“We need this,” Eric Olsen said. “It’s good for the soul and it was just fun, man, having all the comradery. This was a great time, dude, lot of fun!”