Oakland's first major professional sports franchise was an annual contender, with star players and coaches forming a bond with loyal fans who consistently bought every ticket.
The embrace between team and fans seemed destined to last forever.
And then it was gone. On May 7, 1982, exactly 30 years ago, an all-woman jury in Los Angeles federal court took five hours to unanimously rule in favor of Al Davis, allowing the Raiders owner to move the team from Oakland to L. A.
Dumped after nearly two decades of devotion, fans were livid. Davis felt vindicated.
"Sure, I expected the Oakland fans to get angry at me," he later told ESPN. "But I don't remember any of them parading on the Oakland Coliseum, saying, 'Give him what he wants.' In their mind, it's their team. In my mind, it's not."
The Raiders, in the wake of that business decision, have never been the same. Neither have Oakland and local Raiders fans. The split left scars that didn't heal during the team's 13 seasons in L.A. and haven't healed in the 17 seasons since their return to Oakland in 1995.
The magical bond is gone. Can they get it back?
The short answer: Not without a series of honest and purposeful efforts, including proactive marketing, responsive management, a deeper sense of community and an improved football product.
All of which is no less significant than finding a way to stabilize, once and for all, the stadium situation.
Some fans never forgave Davis for moving the team -- and others never trusted him after returning -- so his death last October presents an opportunity for rededication.
The first moves must be made by the New Raiders, who are showing a willingness to make them. They announced last month that 10 percent of revenue generated by season tickets sold in May and June will go to Oakland's public schools. It's a unique program, and it's something the Raiders of old would not have done.
There will be, I've been told, more programs designed to aid and assist local youth.
Former coach Hue Jackson, attempting to refresh the Raiders brand, spent much of last offseason appearing at a wide variety of civic and social functions. He spoke to community groups, attended breakfasts and luncheons and dinners. The labor lockout helped clear his schedule, but he realized the need for outreach.
Not coincidentally, the 2011 season was the first since the team's return in which every home game, with help from discounts and buyoffs, sold out.
Jackson's replacement, Dennis Allen, now has to grab a share of that baton. As one of the faces of the New Raiders, he can't sit in his office and expect public appearances by players will be enough to energize the fan base.
Moreover, the Raiders would be well served by having a liaison whose sole purpose is to engage the community, to wring the most out of the relationship between the franchise and the locals. It's not just about bonding with fans; true outreach also makes friends of those who don't even follow sports.
They might even consider lifting parts of the comprehensive community outreach program utilized by the Green Bay Packers, where new general manager Reggie McKenzie spent 17 years.
McKenzie, however, has to focus on the football. He's doing that, rapidly overhauling the entire football operation. That task, however, is years in the making and even further away from producing actual results.
The New Raiders have a relatively clean slate. They're arriving after a perfectly mediocre season. They're filling in after the loss of the franchise icon, who was one of the truly polarizing figures in sport.
That brings us back to '82 and the raw feelings that existed between the fan base and the franchise. The Raiders were Oakland's original team, before the A's and the Warriors. They delivered the Bay Area's first Super Bowl champion. From 1965-80, they had 16 consecutive winning seasons and a full decade (1970-79) of home sellouts. Available season tickets were a myth.
The Raiders owned the town. Many players and coaches lived literally within a half-hour of the Oakland Coliseum, which further accounts for the strong feeling of abandonment. When Davis took the team, he also took friends and neighbors.
First loves are the greatest loves only when they represent the best of times for both partners. Once upon a time, that was true of the Raiders and football fans in the East Bay.
To these fans, the Raiders were "their team." They had experienced nothing like it.
They want to believe that feeling can reignite. Maybe it can. Maybe all traces of bitterness from that painful day 30 years ago can be wiped away.
Contact Monte Poole at email@example.com.