Fight has gone out of rivalry;RAIDERS 2-3 AT 49ERS 0-5

Mike Singletary would like to say he hates the Raiders and gets
all worked up for the Bay Area rivalry, but at 0-5, he’s got his
own problems.

“Just win,” the
49ers coach said about today’s 12th
running of the Battle of the Bay, with the teams meeting this time
at Candlestick Park.

Welcome to the rivalry that no longer is. Howie Long no longer
chases
49ers offensive-line coaches after
the game. Jeff Garcia doesn’t give the bird to the Black Hole. No
one has to worry about Charles Haley thrashing the postgame locker
room in disgust.

Maybe the cross-bay fire has been dashed by a combined record of
2-8 this season. Perhaps bragging rights aren’t much to brag about
when the
49ers and Raiders have combined for
14 non-winning seasons over the past seven years.

The Raiders are 31-86 since 2002, only marginally worse than the

49ers’ 40-77 mark. If one beats the
other today, is the accomplishment really what it used to be when
both franchises were piling up Lombardi Trophies
49ers 5, Raiders 3?

“I don’t think it’s the same,”
49ers running backs coach Tom
Rathman said. He’s been on both sides of the rivalry, as both a
player and a coach, and he can remember when the
49ers hated the Raiders and the
feeling was mutual.

“Organization-wise, and with the fans, it still is. But when you
talk about the players coming in new every year, a lot of them
weren’t here when the success was here. They just don’t know what
it is right now.”

Oh sure, some Niners players are still trying to get into the
angry spirit of the week. Week 7 at Carolina, this isn’t.

Wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr., who played at Ohio State, compared
49ers-Raiders to Ohio
State-Michigan, though he’s been with the
49ers since April and has only
experienced the exhibition-season version of the series.

Quarterback Alex Smith said, “There’s definitely a rivalry
feel.” Wide receiver Josh Morgan said he could picture a reporter
in a Raider uniform at that very moment. But, perhaps left tackle
Barry Sims captured it best when he said the Battle of the Bay is
more about the fan base. Some of his closest friends still play for
the Raiders, so how can he hate them Sunday?

“It’s a rivalry, but it’s more for the fans than it is for us,”
said Sims, who played for Oakland in the past three games in this
series. “We’re not looking at it from the fan’s point of view, ‘Oh,
it’s the Battle of the Bay.’ They’re a good opponent that just
happens to be right next to us.”

Sims knows how the fans’ blood boils over this game. He signed
with the
49ers three seasons ago. He
remembers being called a traitor and “other stuff” the first time
he returned to the Coliseum in red and gold.

Never mind that the
49ers and Raiders play once every
four years on average. At least on the Oakland side, this rivalry
trumps twice-a-year division rivals like San Diego, Denver and San
Diego.

“I remember when they would flash scores on the board,” Sims
said of his Raiders days. “They would go through the AFC West
scores, and then the
49ers’ score would go up, and that
would get the loudest out of the fans.”

So, sit back and enjoy. If fans are lucky, maybe the
49ers and Raiders will brawl
between plays, just for old time’s sake.