NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
kcur_89.3_up_to_date.png
Up To Date

Commentary: Kansas City Chiefs Bid Oakland's 'Black Hole' Coliseum Farewell

Ever since the teams’ first meeting in Oakland, nearly 60 years ago, the rivalry between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders has been considered one of the bitterest in the NFL. After this past Sunday it will never be quite the same. Commentator Victor Wishna explains why, in this month’s edition of 'A Fan’s Notes.'

On Sunday the Kansas City Chiefs made what is most likely their final trip to Oakland for one last dance in the dirt.

Yeah, really — the dirt. The Oakland Raiders call the Oakland Coliseum home, but they have roommates. Major League Baseball’s Oakland A’s use it most of the week, and on fall Sundays they just leave a bunch of their baselines and infield dirt lying around. It’s a design quirk that robs the infamous Black Hole of some of its malevolent majesty.

And on paper this 121st renewal of the rivalry was not a game that had all that much meaning: a second week matchup with a seven point spread between the three-time defending division champs, and a team that won just four games last year. Yet it was one of those moments in sports when history clashes with history in the making.

The Raiders are leaving for Las Vegas after the season, and CBS Sports sent their first-string broadcast team to cover the farewell tour. Before kickoff, Jim Nantz and Tony Romo waxed nostalgic over black-and-white images of the rivalry’s epic encounters past. Sure there was color film in the sixties, but memories just look better in black and white.

The Raider faithful, meanwhile, were loud and exceedingly faithful, considering that this team has proven, and not for the first time, that it doesn’t give a bleep about them.

But at first the Raiders were actually scary, driving across the baseball diamond unchecked. And the Chiefs looked more like the Royals as, for the first time in 23 games, Andy Reid’s offense was completely shut out in the first quarter.

But that just made them angry and on the first play of the second quarter, Patrick Mahomes took the snap somewhere near second base, and lofted it 44 yards to Demarcus Robinson, who was wide open in front of the visitor’s dugout which — I didn’t realize at first — was also the end zone.

Minutes later, Mahomes launched a 42-yard shot from almost the exact same spot. Then again from 30 yards, and again from nearly 40. I guess it’s no surprise that the former baseball prospect and son of a Major-Leaguer would be perfectly comfortable hurling strikes from the middle of the infield.

Indeed, Mahomes’s father, Pat, last pitched on this field on the exact same date 24 years ago, two days before Patrick the Second was born.

(Hey! That means — yeah — happy birthday!)

Speaking of milestones, Mahomes’ 278 passing yards in the second was the most in any single quarter of a regular season NFL game, his four TDs the most in team history. The Raiders, meanwhile, wouldn’t score again.

So the Chiefs left Oakland for the last time victorious. And the A’s went about putting their furniture back in place. They had to get ready for the Royals, who arrived last night for a three-game set.

Since the Raiders’ next home game isn’t until November, when baseball season is over, this was the last game in the dirt. Next year, the team finally takes all their fear and loathing to Las Vegas, where, with significant help from taxpayers, they are shoveling nearly $2 billion into a shiny new black hole.

The Las Vegas Raiders just sounds wrong for many reasons. Grit and glitz? Sure, there was that brief decade when the Raiders set up shop in L.A., but that just felt like an extended sabbatical. They were always the Oakland Raiders.

Andy Reid left the Coliseum as the winningest head coach in NFL history who hasn’t won a championship. As if on cue, CBS flashed a photo of Hank Stram being carried out on his players’ shoulders following the last ever AFL championship game, in which the Chiefs beat the Raiders en route to their only Super Bowl win.

In some ways, that 50-year-old image seems more present than ever, even though this team has 14 games before the playoffs and a lot more history to make.

Victor Wishna is a writer, editor and sports fan. He lives in Leawood.

Victor Wishna is a contributing author and commentator for Up to Date.