The Oakland Raiders are one of those football teams where their long and storied history is usually more dramatic than what is going on during the games. Growing up in Northern California, whether they were the Oakland Raiders, the L.A. Raiders, or when they headed back to Oakland, the Raiders were always my team of choice. I never cared too much about football itself, but boy did I love West Coast rap music, and the Geto Boys and N.W.A. told me the Raiders were important, so important they became.
Long-time Bend resident, DJ, and musician Aaron Chambers (AKA MC Mystic, Raider Mystic) has been a die-hard Raider fan since birth, when his father took him to games.
"No matter what stage I have been through in my life the Raiders were always a part of my Sunday tradition," Mystic says. "It's a way of life and if you're not inside of this beast it's hard for you to understand."
I used to have trouble understanding why or how people became super fans of teams from cities they had no connection to. I knew someone who would bleed for the Dallas Cowboys even though they had never set foot in Texas or watched any football aside from their games. But that kind of connection and that sense of being a part of something larger than yourself is arguably what humanity strives for the hardest. Being a fan of the Raiders or the Cowboys is really no different than loving Benedict Cumberbatch or obsessively watching "American Idol," and Raider Mystic is taking his love of that team and making some incredibly positive contributions to Central Oregon and beyond.
Three years ago, Mystic founded the Bend Oregon Raider Nation (or B.O.R.N), a Raiders fan/booster club.
"I started B.O.R.N. as an idea about 8 years ago and created the group page on Facebook and then left it on the shelf because I knew once we started it would be full steam ahead," says Mystic. "Being a Raider fan is not just being a fan of a team but being a part of a giant family, the Raider Nation, where we have each others' back also."
Since then, the group has grown to about 355 between the Facebook page and email list, which receives weekly updates. Mystic says some of the group's members drive up to 130 miles round trip to attend meetings in Bend.
But B.O.R.N. isn't just about celebrating a mutual love of a sporting franchise, it is about improving the lives of the people in Central Oregon.
"We cook and serve dinner bi-monthly at The Bethlehem Inn," Mystic says. "We have adopted two roads. We have adopted a park. We do holiday toy drives. We have done many events helping out the Ronald McDonald House. We work with [Central Oregon Veterans Outreach] and raise awareness and do food drives for them also. This year we will have a float in the Bend Christmas parade with our own Raider Nation group 4DUB actually performing on it live. So we are much more than just a football club, but also a humanity coalition of positive rebel forces."
The group performing on the float, 4DUB, is made up of Mystic himself along with Mr. Green Leaf from Long Beach and Spidey Locc from Compton. They rap exclusively about the Raiders and are halfway done with producing their third album. Now those are fans.
This type of fandom is refreshing in an era where social media allows us to connect with people who like the same things we do from all across the world, but still keeps us insular from them. Unlike the fans of Star Wars, who love the franchise deeply but spend most of their time picking it apart and fighting over what remains, B.O.R.N. is about something different than that.
"It has become way more than just a game," says Mystic. "The Raider Nation is one of the strongest families you will encounter. So not only are we now tied together through love for the same team and the same sport, we have gotten way deeper than that and are now all family. We support each other when needed. We lift each other up and help when needed."