Scott and Marilyn Palmer -- each proudly wearing Tampa Bay Buccaneers jerseys -- were about to have their picture taken outside Qualcomm Stadium. And before the picture was snapped, five members of Raider Nation surrounded the couple without an invitation.
"You guys haven't seen Rich Gannon yet," one Oakland Raiders fan told the couple while they all posed in a good-natured manner.
Scott Palmer replied playfully, "Well, you guys haven't seen Warren Sapp."
Raiders fans were all over the stadium today when Tampa Bay faced Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVII. But they left San Diego with nothing to cheer about as their Raiders fell to their former coach, Jon Gruden, and the Buccaneers, 48-21.
Like the Palmers, Bucs fans were surrounded by Raiders fans in a stadium 120 miles from Los Angeles -- where the Raiders made their home for 13 years.
"Being originally from Cleveland, the Raider fans actually remind me a lot of the Browns fans," said Scott Palmer, a schoolteacher, like his wife. "They are blue-collar people who like their team and will do anything to support them. I like that they get all dressed up and stuff like that and show their support. I kind of wish more Tampa fans did that."
Oakland is 10 hours away by car and Raiders fans, with their Goth garb, can be a frightening specter. But, it turns out, they are college students and stockbrokers.
Jon Chelf, 18, came from Notre Dame, but it would have been difficult for his professors to recognize the psychology major. Chelf's face was painted silver and black, with "XXX" on the right cheek and "VII" on the left. Chelf's shoulders were adorned with a skull. Don't think Chelf's mother wouldn't approve, though.
Kerrie Chelf, 50, had more paint on her face than her only son. The paint jobs took two hours. And the Chelfs' outfits were so outrageous -- though nothing unusual for Raiders fans -- that several Bucs fans couldn't help but ask to take pictures. Kerrie Chelf traveled from Colorado to meet her son here after buying the Super Bowl tickets over the Internet for $2,300 each.
"We love our Raiders," explained Kerrie Chelf, a small-business owner. "There's no price. It's dedication. It's just passion for the teams."
That passion can be seen during the regular season at Qualcomm Stadium, where the San Diego Chargers play the Raiders once each year. Many Chargers fans view the Raiders with disdain, accusing the latter of belligerent -- occasionally criminal -- behavior. The Chargers even tried to legislate Oakland fans out their arena for the Super Bowl by concocting a ticket policy forcing spectators to buy two additional tickets. Nonetheless, Raiders fans found ways to get to the game and maintain their presence. (Some fans reportedly brought the other two tickets to the game and tore them up at the stadium.) But Bucs fans apparently don't hold the same animosity toward Raiders fans.
John Chapman, a 54-year-old Bucs fan, said that the worst fans were from Philadelphia, where the Bucs played the Eagles last week. "They have a jail and they have a judge," said Chapman, who sells lawn mowers. "The Eagles fans are animals. They are ruthless animals. And these guys [Raiders fans] are docile compared to that. These are mostly fun-loving fans."
Most Raiders fans interviewed won their tickets in a lottery the team held for season ticket holders. One of them was Vicky Lopez, a post office worker, who drove from Orange County. Lopez, 51, has been a Raiders fan for about half her life. Even if Lopez hadn't won the lottery, she said, she would have found a way to make it to the game. When the Chargers made it more difficult for the Raiders fans to get tickets for games here, Lopez said she bought tickets from Chargers fans.
"We're loyal, win or lose" said Lopez. "We've been here for generations."
With ticket brokers such as David Cabrera, it's no wonder that Raiders fans outnumbered Bucs fans today. Cabrera -- an avid Raiders fan -- owns Friendlytickets, which sells Super Bowl tickets for $1,700 to $5,000. And, despite the hefty prices, Cabrera felt compelled to discriminate against one group: Bucs fans. Cabrera found out which fans were for the Raiders, he said, by merely asking them or getting their location. For prospective buyers who came from neutral ground, Cabrera gave them a quiz. "They had to be able to name some [little-known] players on the Raiders," he said.
Despite those qualifications, Cabrera had no problem selling all 400 tickets to Raiders fans. "I'm proud of it," he said.
Several Bucs fans interviewed today begrudgingly conceded respect for Raiders fans rather than fear. Adam Tepper, 25, and Steven Burkholder, 24, stood out among Bucs fans.
They took advantage of the balmy weather by going shirtless -- and painted their torsos with Bucs colors. Burkholder wore a red hardhat emblazoned with a flag; Tepper wore a red wig.
"We just want to show America the quality of the Tampa Bay fans," Burkholder said. "The team on the field can see us like this, and see there's support."
With Slick Rick's rap classic "Mona Lisa" blaring from a loudspeaker before the game, Burkholder and Tepper tried to rally Bucs fans. The two, accountants from a Big Four firm they declined to name, screamed words of encouragement.
"We had to show up," Tepper said. "The Raider Nation is here, but so are we. I'm excited and I want to show my excitement. And if you don't hear me, you're going to see me."