Not everyone is convinced the Raiders are ready for prime time. But how about bedtime?
At 8:35 p.m. this evening — 11:35 p.m. on the East Coast — when most of the nation is computing its fantasy football points, turning on "SportsCenter" for a final round of NFL highlights or simply kissing someone good night, the Raiders will be lining up for the opening kickoff against the visiting San Diego Chargers.
As far as anyone can tell, it will be the latest kickoff in NFL history. Excluding boxing or MMA fights and baseball rain delays, it's hard to imagine that any major professional sporting event in the continental U.S. has gotten under way at a later hour.
Thanks, once again, to Oakland's quirky Coliseum, the last remaining dual MLB/NFL stadium in America. As if kickers missing field goals off the infield dirt and vast sections of tarped baseball seating weren't indignity enough, now we have this, a game being hailed as the first installment of "Monday Morning Football" along the Eastern seaboard.
The Raiders-Chargers game was originally scheduled for 1:25 p.m., a perfectly sensible hour. But when Major League Baseball scheduled the A's-Tigers playoff game for 6:07 p.m. on Saturday night, it didn't leave enough time to convert the stadium to its football configuration.
The NFL considered asking the Raiders and Chargers to swap home dates — they are scheduled to play in San Diego on Dec. 22. But the league generally tries to give its fan bases about two weeks' notice for such maneuvers. That would have required a decision by Sept. 23. The A's had just wrapped up the AL West at that point, but there was no telling whether they would be seeded No. 1, 2 or 3 in the playoffs, and the NFL didn't want to switch sites without a clear need.
Normally, the league would have bumped Raiders-Chargers to 5:30 p.m., its normal prime-time slot. But the 49ers are hosting the Houston Texans on "Sunday Night Football," and the two Bay Area teams can't go head to head on the airwaves. So voila! The witching hour becomes the blitzing hour.
There isn't much grumbling coming from the affected teams. The players' internal clocks shouldn't be hard to reset, and the coaches get a few extra hours to redraw their X's and O's.
"We've got to tee it up whenever they tell us to tee it up," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said Wednesday. "I mean, I don't think you can look at that. Let's don't build in any excuses. Let's go play. If they wanted us to tee it up today, we'd tee it up today."
Elsewhere, the 8:35 p.m. start generated an immediate tally of winners and losers. The losers include backers of the Raiders or Chargers living east of the Mississippi, families who planned to bring children to the game or who must get up early Monday morning, and those who were forced to rebook flights when the NFL announced its decision. You'll join the list if you forget your polar fleece on Sunday night. And God bless any unlucky drivers who get caught unaware on I-880 when the clock strikes midnight.
Some also worry about security at the Coliseum tonight. Raiders-Chargers games can be violent events under any circumstances, and with an extra seven hours for revelers to tailgate — civility may be fast asleep by kickoff. To be safe, the Raiders and stadium manager AEG will cut off alcohol sales at halftime, rather than the end of the third quarter.