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In Oakland, Every Game Is Like Halloween

Posted Nov 1, 2013

There will be skulls and swords and pirates and ghouls. There will be some in masks and spikes and chains. People will be covered in face paint and cloaked in other outfits that you wouldn’t typically see on an average day. Small children may get a bit nervous of their surroundings.

The description above is not in reference to Halloween. Instead, it describes the typical tomfoolery of gameday in Oakland, where the O.co Coliseum is warped into a scene lovingly referred to as the Black Hole. The fans will be raucous - especially those seated around the end zones - doing everything that they can to intimidate the opposing players.

For some Eagles like linebacker DeMeco Ryans who have played in Oakland before, the hostile environment doesn’t change the way that the game is played in between the white lines.

“I had a couple of good games out there, so hopefully we can repeat that this time around,” said Ryans. “You see some people with face paint and shoulder pads, but it’s no big deal.”

Cary Williams takes a different approach to dealing with the opposing fans. The fifth-year cornerback doesn’t try to tune out the crowd noise, he thrives on it.

“It’s the Black Hole,” Williams said with a smile. “I compare it to the Pittsburgh of the west, in a sense. Pittsburgh fans didn’t come out in crazy outfits and stuff like that, but Oakland is loud. You might get a couple beer cans or bottles thrown at the bus on entry. You know it’s going to be a hostile environment, but that’s what makes football fun. You’ve got the fans that are amped and hyped and ready to go, and it just gives you extra motivation to go out there outperform those guys and silence the crowd.”

Williams never seems to shy away from anything, including rowdy fans. In fact, he always takes a window seat on the team bus to embrace his team’s welcome, because at the end of the day, it’s all about entertaining and giving the fans what they want.

“I think the atmosphere makes the game fun,” Williams said. “You have guys that are taking the game seriously and they really enjoy it. They want to see you go out there and perform at the highest level and be at your best, and that’s what makes this game special and that’s what the fans love to see. Fans want to see a great game. I think fans even enjoy us taunting the crowd a little bit. It just makes for a better atmosphere for everybody. I think the whole NFL benefits from great fans and great atmosphere.”

Playing in Oakland is one thing; coaching there is another. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis has coached his share of games from the Black Hole, and he explained how the face paint and skeleton bones camouflage a much kinder and gentler fan base.

“It's an exciting atmosphere,” said Davis. “I remember early on in my career I was with (former linebacker) Kevin Greene and the Pittsburgh Steelers and that is a huge rivalry there. It's like Halloween every weekend there because they all dress up especially in the end zone.

“Well, Kevin Greene, I'm going through individual drills and he starts screaming and running and he dove into the end zone where all the supposedly crazy guys are and they loved it.  They're some of the nicest people in that end zone that are all dressed up like Halloween.  They couldn't have been happier to see him dive in there even though he was a Steeler at the time.  So I learned back then it is a great place to play.  They're friendly.  They're good people.  They're very passionate, and they like dressing up in Halloween every Sunday.  It's a good weekend to do that …  I think it's a fun place to play, and a good fan base.”

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