As family and friends plead for tickets to the Chargers’ regular-season finale, Hayes Pullard has one rule.
“Don’t wear Raiders gear,” he said.
Pullard gets it. The 25-year-old linebacker grew up in Inglewood and graduated from Crenshaw High and USC. He was too young to be indoctrinated as a Raiders fan before the franchise moved back to Oakland in 1995, but his family? For the vast majority of them, silver and black run deep.
The Raiders (6-9) have long been the area’s most popular professional football team, winning Super Bowl XVII to cap the second of their 13 seasons in Los Angeles. Even after the NFL abandoned the region for over two decades, their brand has remained strong.
When the Chargers (8-7) host their division rival Sunday (1:25 p.m., CBS), StubHub Center could feel like the Black Hole.
“You know, it’s kind of funny,” Raiders owner Mark Davis told this news organization in August. “They’re talking about the fight for Los Angeles. And Raiders fans have been telling me we already won that fight. And that the Rams and Chargers are fighting for the No. 2 and 3 spots.”
The players know this as well as anyone. Unlike the Rams, who in 2016 returned to Los Angeles with a small but loyal fanbase, the Chargers moved up from San Diego with little existing pull. Playing in 27,000-seat venue, their early crowds were overrun by Miami fans, Kansas City fans, Philadelphia fans. After a loss to the Eagles dropped them to 0-4, one player shouted in frustration: “Every game’s an away game!”
Home crowds have become friendlier since Week 4, though their most raucous showing came against a winless Browns squad. While that dynamic could continue to tilt in the Chargers’ favor over time, there’s little the team can do now to combat the Raiders’ institutional advantages. After all, Oakland fans took over Qualcomm Stadium last year too.
“I just keep having flashbacks to last year,” said running back Melvin Gordon. “It was just a…