Raiders running back Jalen Richard drifted into the left flat and caught a screen pass from quarterback Derek Carr a few yards from pay dirt. Three receivers were engaged and blocking well before him, allowing Richard to squiggle through traffic and into Oakland Coliseum’s southern end zone.
It was a big moment for the 2016 Raiders, looking to enhance playoff positioning with a Week 16 home win over Indianapolis. It was a big moment for Richard, an undrafted rookie who found himself a major contributor in a playoff push. He didn’t stop to celebrate with his teammates. No way, not after his first touchdown in the East Bay.
There was tradition to uphold. Richard made a beeline for the Black Hole.
“It was definitely planned,” Richard said. “I thought they looked like they were turnt up. Everybody was faded and having a blast. I knew I had to do it.”
It’s a rite of passage for Raiders skill players fortunate enough to score near a notoriously rabid fan section.
“Sometimes I plan on it, and other times it just happens,” Raiders running back DeAndre Washington said. “Once you get in the end zone, your adrenaline is going and you’ve got 60,000 people screaming for you to come get that love. They always embrace you. It’s one hell of a feeling. I would advise anybody who scores to try it at least once."
Jumping into the Black Hole isn’t new. Running back Napoleon Kaufman was first to do it in the mid-1990s -- the Raiders moved back to Oakland in 1995 -- as the Black Hole was established and growing in size and notoriety.
The tradition grew from there and has become commonplace when the Raiders break into the southern end zone. There’s one more guaranteed chance to do so Sunday against Jacksonville, the final Raiders game at Oakland Coliseum and maybe the Black Hole's last hurrah.
It’s not just rushers and receivers who can get in on the act.
Quarterback Jeff George took the leap in 1997. Edge rusher Khalil Mack and linebacker Sio Moore have partied in the crowd. Even 340-pound left tackle Donald Penn jumped into the Black Hole after scoring a big-man touchdown.
Former All-Pro fullback Marcel Reece never missed a chance to party with the fans who unwaveringly supported the Raiders during some lean years.
“Jumping in the Black Hole and celebrating with those fans, those loyalists, those people who bleed silver and black just like you do, it’s like being at Thanksgiving dinner with your family,” Reece said. “It’s that feeling where, no matter what else is going on, nothing else matters but that moment right there.
"The fact that you scored and gave them a reason to cheer is a feeling that’s like nothing else.”
There is some technique to it. You need a head of steam and decent hops to get over the stadium wall and into the crowd. It’s decently low, but folks have tried to get into the Black Hole and missed. It’s also important to jump up, turn around and go in backwards. The leap of faith will be rewarded by fans ready to catch you.
“You need a little bounce or you’ll get embarrassed,” Raiders running back DeAndre Washington said. “I’ve seen a few guys miss the leap, so you’ve got to be ready to get vertical. Even if you don’t make it, the fans will pull you up. You might get a little beer on you, but that’s part of the experience.”
There’s another aspect of the experience first-timers don’t expect. Getting in is easy. Getting out is another matter.
“Sometimes they don’t like to let you go,” Washington said. “And, if you get in there with the ball, it’s going to be a fight for sure. You have to protect it like you were still running.”
The experience doesn’t last long. Teammates come running up quick, with offensive linemen ready to pull scorers out of the abyss. Beer stains come with it, but it’s a unique part of the Raiders playing experience.
“It’s like you’re a part of the Black Hole for a split second,” Richard said. “You jump up there and you just feed off of their energy. It’s pretty awesome.”