Over a 60-year span, the Broncos and the Raiders have collided at a dozen different sites – including former Olympic stadiums (one in Spain), baseball parks in San Francisco and Denver, a football stadium named in honor of an undertaker (Frank Youell), college and high school football fields in Nebraska, Oregon, the state capital of California, a coliseum in Los Angeles and a mausoleum in Oakland.
But on Sunday for the first time since beginning long ago and far away, the Clash of the Abhorred Antagonists will be conducted at “The Death Star."
May the force be with you, Broncos.
The teams have played games in front of 90,000 and 75,000 and 7,000 and 5,000, but the Raiders and the Broncos never have played in front of nobody before Sunday’s game.
The crowd at a Mandalay Bay casino blackjack table will be larger than the gathering at the nearby football edifice.
Welcome to Paradise, Nev.
Under normal circumstances, more than 25,000 Coloradans would travel this weekend to the Broncos’ inaugural game in Las Vegas. Obviously, these times are abnormal. On an afternoon flight this Friday from Denver to Vegas that would have been full a year ago, 84 seats are vacant. Tourists won’t be able to see the Broncos vs. the Raiders or Christina Aguilera, but tickets still are available for the Piff The Magic Dragon act at the Flamingo. Gamblers from Denver can line up at the windows in the world’s largest sportsbook at the Westgate Resort and bet on the Broncos, presently 5-point underdogs, and watch the game on a 20-foot TV screen.
It will not be like the good, and bad, old days of the Broncos-Raiders rivalry.
Oakland-Alameda Coliseum is a relic, and these are not the Broncos and Raiders of the 1977 season – “It’s all over, Fat Man,’’ Tom Jackson told John Madden – and the AFC Championship at Mile High Stadium. This is not 1960 when the Oakland Raiders flummoxed the Broncos across the bay at Candlestick Park. This is not John Elway beating the Raiders 21-10 with 90,153 folks in the L.A. Coliseum in 1986.
This is not a '60s exhibition between the American Football League enemies in North Platte, Neb., or Stockton, California. This is not Mike Shanahan coaching for the Raiders vs. the Broncos or Shanahan coaching the Broncos vs. the Raiders and offering a backup quarterback $200 during warmups if he could hit Al Davis in the back with a pass.
This is not Tim Tebow making his debut as the Broncos’ starting quarterback in Oakland in 2010 and losing 39-23 or returning to the Coliseum the next year and winning 38-24. This is not Peyton Manning defeating the Raiders in all seven games while with the Broncos. In one he led the Broncos to a 47-14 victory.
This is not even the Broncos winning 16-15 last December in Denver.
These are not the Orange Crush or No-Fly-Zone Broncos, and these are not the Broncos or the Raiders of Lyle Alzado. These are not the Raiders of The Mad Stork, Ken “The Snake" Stabler and Dave Casper, “The Ghost’’. These are not the Broncos of Frank Tripucka, Randy Gradishar, Rich “Tombstone’’ Jackson or Steve Atwater, the Smiling Assassin.
These are not the Broncos and the Raiders of 121 previous games, 65 won by the Raiders.
Broncos wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler weren’t alive when the team won its first two Super Bowls. Drew Lock, who turned 24 on Tuesday, was 2 when Elway played his final game.
Tight end Jason Witten, at 38, is the only Raiders player born before the franchise won its last Super Bowl at the end of the 1983 season.
None of the Raiders know that Al Davis, whose son is current owner Mark Davis, was once introduced before a game to a costumed Darth Vader, and he had no idea who the character was.
Yet Mark, upon viewing Allegiant Stadium upon completion, nicknamed it “The Death Star." He didn’t realize that space station was destroyed twice in the "Star Wars" movies.
Sunday is the start of a new saga in the epic history of the Raiders and the Broncos, AFC originals who eventually reached a combined 13 Super Bowls and won six NFL titles.
This is Episode CXXII and No. 1 in Las Vegas.