If it's August, it must mean that the East Bay's version of Capistrano is starting to come alive once again. But it's not swallows that return like clockwork to the Oakland Coliseum; not unless the swallows are wearing silver and black face paint and spiked body armor. Let this be a warning to the weak-hearted and aroma-sensitive: The Black Hole is open and ready for business. The Oakland Raiders (or if your name is Al Davis, "tha Rayduhs") and their creative band of merry fans and rabble-rousers are back in black this Friday (6 p.m.) against the St. Louis Rams in the first exhibition, er, pre-season game of the year. Just six months after the humiliating 48-21 meltdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- sans AWOL Barrett Robbins -- in Super Bowl XXXVII, collective wounds aren't quite thoroughly licked, and there are still some nagging questions to be answered, like: "What the hell happened?" But Oakland promises to be a very strong team again. Despite their advancing age, surefire Hall of Famers and wide receivers Jerry Rice and Tim Brown and fellow veteran standout quarterback Rich Gannon are still at the top of their game. Add a healthy Charles Woodson on defense and the Raiders look as good as last season's 11-5 world-beating team -- which seemed to be the best in the NFL before the Super Bowl implosion. Raiders.com -- Tony Hayes
Just "Stop the Violence"
The fourth annual Stop the Violence Track Meet was instituted to help keep older kids off the streets and out of trouble. Originally held in Vallejo, Saturday's open meet moves to Contra Costa College this year because its regular location, Vallejo's Corbus Field, is being repaired -- but that won't stop track and field athletes, ages sixteen and up, from competing for medals. There's also a "Jump for Fun" for little kids. Registration for single runners costs $10; relay teams of four or more, $7 each. Spectator admission is $5; $3 students; $2 ages six to twelve; and under five, free. Gates open at 8 a.m. at the Contra Costa College campus, 2600 Mission Bell Dr., San Pablo. Phone 510-526-7119 (organizer Ruth Parrish) for information. -- Kelly Vance
Culture Spy - February 23, 2:42 PM
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Culture Spy - February 19, 1:45 PM
What the Fork - February 15, 2:00 PM
Culture Spy - February 15, 10:30 AM