Raiders Nation Reading Hour

Raiders Nation Reading Hour September 17, 2019

Say what you will about the dust up between Sohrab Ahmari and David French and what the phenomenon of Drag Queen Reading Hour reveals about political conservatism, what seems to be missing from every comment I have read is the wisdom of the public library officials who approved of men dressed in drag reading to children. Imagine what the public reaction in San Francisco might be if fans of the nearby Oakland Raiders had a regular shot a reading to impressionable kids. Of course, at the level of sports rivalries, San Franciscans, no matter how tolerant when it comes to sex, are not so indifferent about franchises in the National Football League. Well might mothers and fathers who root for the Forty-Niners object to public library officials rolling out the red carpet for Raiders fans, no matter how elevating or inspired the book they choose to read.

But this is not simply a question of team loyalty. Oakland Raiders’ fans have a well-earned reputation for being some of the most controversial in the NFL. One factor is their alcoholic consumption. Another is their imitation of the bad-boy reputation that the team itself cultivated:

The city of Oakland’s working-class background and “underdog status” compared to its neighboring city of San Francisco is cited as the foundation of the Raider Nation and its image, as is the influence of “outlaws” such as owner Al Davis and players like Ted Hendricks, John Matuszak, Bob Brown, Ken Stabler, Jack Tatum, and Lyle Alzado in creating a bad boy image. The team’s aggressive style of play during the 1970s and 1980s, when the Raiders won their three Super Bowls, is also mentioned. This perception did not change when the Raiders moved to Los Angeles, but the move did diversify their fan base to include more Latinos and African Americans, and the Raiders would become increasingly associated with West Coast gangsta rap groups like N.W.A during this period. This association would lead to the Raider Nation spreading throughout the country and turning the team into an internationally transcendent brand; the fans would also gain a reputation for their unrelenting devotion.

Members of the Raider Nation take pride in their image, and many of the most devoted Raiders fans dress up in elaborate costumes on game day. Many of these costumes are intended to be intimidating and eccentric while also adhering to the Raiders’ silver and black color scheme, and many fans also create alter egos for these characters as well. These fans are typically the ones that are most associated with the Raider Nation and The Black Hole.

One thought occurs while reading that description — can Raiders’ fans be any more intimidating when they dress up than Drag Queens? You might think that edge would appeal to the fringe and outre sensibilities that library officials in San Francisco try to cultivate:

Gather, share knowledge and celebrate our unique identities at the queerest library ever. Visit the James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center, the gateway to the Library’s broader collections documenting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and allies’ history and culture, with a special emphasis on the San Francisco Bay Area.

If you expand the meaning of that word “queer” as broadly as gender now functions in polite conversations, Raiders fans might well qualify as peculiar. As an added plus — they are part of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Some journalists are surprised by a backlash from conservatives about Drag Queens reading to children. But those same reporters might be able to imagine residents of San Francisco being alarmed by Raiders Nation Reading Hour, especially if they read this:

Right now there are at least 50 people in San Quentin Prison for something they did after a Raiders game. Possibly 100. The official team of the California penal system is a far cry from the renegade outlaws that got them their sociopathic fanbase, but your average Raider fan isn’t really as concerned with “winning” as he is with “beating opposing fans with blunt objects.” No lie: I’ve literally seen guys in Broncos jerseys with police escorts walking through the parking lot at O.co. A stroll through the concourses is about as close to spending a night in the Alameda County Jail as anyone should ever get, though at least in jail there’s somebody making more than $12 an hour around to protect you. And as you wade through empty liquor bottles after another home loss, there is a better-than-average chance you won’t be able to get into your car because somebody is being beaten up behind it. Things should only improve in Las Vegas.

Some may object that comparing Drag Queens to Raiders fans is stacking the deck, as if people who identify with “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and allies’ history and culture” are wholesome compared to rowdy football fans are only a notch above Trump supporters in America’s moral hierarchy. Surely, though, being queer has lost some of its edge if it means personifying Mr. Rogers.

Meanwhile, I still scratch my head about David French’s refusal to join Sohrab Ahmari in objecting to Drag Queen Reading Hour. If French changed his view about gay marriage when the courts intervened, wouldn’t he object a little bit to public library officials, appointed and paid by governments that have access to legitimate use of force through police power, featuring Drag Queens as readers for kids:

As I noted in a piece last week, there is a concerted legal and cultural effort to not just carve out a legal space for same-sex couples but to essentially banish orthodox Christianity from public life — to treat it with the same respect that mainstream culture treats abhorrent ideologies like white supremacy. Christians must lose their jobs, lose their businesses, and close their schools, unless they bend the knee to the sexual revolution. Bonds of friendship and loyalty are meaningless if the cultural conservative holds the wrong view on same-sex marriage, and Christian clubs are vile discriminators if they simply want to be led by Christian leaders. In the “blue” sectors of America, particularly the academy, some Christians feel that they have to live under deep cover to protect their careers.

This same logic doesn’t apply to making Drag Queens safe for children library patrons?

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