Updated: September 22, 2013 at 9:40 pm
Randy Runyan is a longtime Colorado resident, a devoted hunter, fisherman and camper. He cherishes the view from Red Mountain Pass on the drive from Ouray from Durango. He stands there, gazing at mountain peaks, while being happily overwhelmed by an essential truth about our state.
"We live in a paradise, man," Runyan said. "That's easy to take for granted until you leave and realize how ugly the rest of the country is. I can't imagine living any other place."
Yes, he's a Colorado man, through and through.
Yet he harbors a dark secret.
This Denver resident is - gasp! - a devout follower of the Oakland Raiders.
"Been swimming against the tide my entire life," he said.
This swimming has been brutal for the past decade. The Raiders offer this weird, delicious slice of Americana, a franchise ruled for 50 years by Al Davis, who favored duck-tailed hairdos and a wardrobe even the latter-day Elvis would have found too extravagant. Davis died in 2011.
Davis understood the savage essence of the game and encouraged his defensive stars to behave on the field the same way a mugger behaves in an alley.
The Raiders, swaggering criminals of the gridiron, inspired hatred everywhere, but the malice reached its peak in Colorado. Long ago, I walked past four Broncos fans talking to a lone Raiders fan on the upper deck of Mile High. The Broncos fans mentioned to the Raiders fan they planned to toss him over the rail into the parking lot.
I think they were kidding.
The game whizzed right by Davis and his Raiders during his final years. The Raiders once had been raunchy and mighty. Lately, the Raiders have been goofy and lousy. The fall of a dictator and his team drained the joy from despising the Raiders, who have lost 90 of their past 132 games. Admit it: Hating the Raiders in 2013 makes as much sense as hating an odd, mean three-legged dog. Where's the fun in heaping abuse on a fallen franchise?
Randy, 29, has watched this tumble with great agony. He comes by his Raiders devotion honestly. His father, Randy Sr., raised him as a Raiders fan in Craig. Randy Sr. first embraced the Raiders in the 1960s. He admired their go-for-the-gusto winning style and their stark black-and-silver uniforms during the days when the Broncos were losing while wearing, to Randy Sr.'s eyes, ugly uniforms.
Think about it. Randy Jr. rooted for the Raiders while growing up in a state that has transformed following the Broncos into a secular religion. He rooted for the Raiders while John Elway, our state's resident folk hero, carried the Broncos to five Super Bowls and two NFL titles. He rooted for the Raiders as his beloved team sank into an abyss.
This refusal to succumb to the orange tide is admirable. There's no way around it. Al Davis, off combing his oily hair somewhere in the afterlife, would be pleased by his stubborn apostle.
"It's about pride," Randy said. "It really is about my pride and being loyal."
In some ways, Randy fits the Raiders fan profile. When he watched the movie "Speed" he rooted for the Dennis Hopper character, who is only one of the more vile criminal lunatics in movie history.
"Sometimes I do root for the bad guy," Randy said.
In other ways, Randy steps outside the men-in-black clich? He teaches music to middle school children, and he's a grad student at Denver. Yes, he's a Raiders fan, but he doesn't toss live grenades at passing cars. I realize this comes as a surprise to some Broncos fans.
On Monday, Randy will attend the Raiders-Broncos game wearing a No. 34 Bo Jackson jersey. He will park in a lot and step out wearing black. He will spend the night surrounded by an ocean of orange.
He will go to a seat in the south stands where he has watched games before, although never adorned in Raiders black. He knows he will encounter at least one hostile fan, a senior citizen who wears a cowboy hat and an old-school Broncos Billy Thompson jersey.
The cowboy-hat fan, Randy said, specializes in inciting enemy fans to become so loud and angry and stupid that stadium security takes them away.
Randy will not be incited to stupidity, he promises. He will not be moved. He will remain, happy and steadfast, in the middle of his favorite state cheering for his favorite team.