The Specific Joy of Watching the Raiders Beat the 49ers

They’re not good, but – for a moment – they were better than San Francisco.

The most glorious moment of the Raiders win over the 49ers yesterday came with 33 seconds on the clock, the Raiders up 11 and the result no longer in doubt. Oakland defensive tackles Justin Tuck and Antonio Smith, two past-their prime sack masters, snuck up behind interim head coach Tony Sparano and dumped a few gallons of piss-colored Gatorade over his head. It was a Gatorade shower for a coach leading his team to its second win of the season. It was ludicrous.

It was also understandable. The Raiders are nearing the end of yet another awful year, the 12th in a row for a team that creatively interprets its own mantra, “Commitment to Excellence.” Beating their rivals from across the Bay at home is the closest these guys will get to a Super Bowl ring, so, dammit, they should celebrate. But that Gatorade shower wasn’t just for the Raiders, it was for all of Oakland, which wants nothing more than to drive a thumb in the eye of its pompous, overbearing neighbor to the West, a city so defined by narcissistic self congratulation that it takes Gatorade showers every damn morning.

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In your face SF.

This has been a garbage year for East Bay sports. Along with the Raiders expected ineptitude, was the A’s unexpected collapse after a brilliant summer. That collapse, by the way, began right around the time the Raiders started training camp, which is a coincidence too delicious to not mention. To make matters worse, as the A’s were at home watching the MLB postseason, the highly mediocre orange and black team from across the bay began playing its best baseball of the year and hoisted a third World Series trophy in five years. Disgusting.

But at least we have the Warriors, right? How can the East Bay have a garbage sports year when it has the NBA’s best team led by the NBA’s most exciting player? Because Oakland is the ugly girlfriend the Warriors no longer want. They are so reluctant to say the O-word that they went with “Golden State,” which sounds like a Zach Braff sequel.

That’s why the Raiders handling the 49ers yesterday was so sweet. Oakland, long treated like the filthy younger brother of posh San Francisco, was queen for a day. And there’s some hope, albeit only from the most optimistic Raiders fans, that yesterday marked a turning point in the fates of the franchises. If you squint hard, the Raiders looks ascendant. Their rookie quarterback seems worth building around and their top pick in next years draft will provide a trade chip that can add young talent to a team that needs it.

Meanwhile, the 49ers are a mess. Jim Harbaugh is on his way out. Fans wish Colin Kaepernick was on his way out. And, after missing last season’s Super Bowl by one touchdown, they’re probably going to miss the playoffs. That the Raiders will be able to claim a small role in that is, well, enough. Tony Sparano will take it. The players will take it. The city will take it. A cooler of Gatorade can’t wash a slate clean, but it’s a start.

Photos by Brian Bahr / Getty Images