Al Davis, Raiders Owner And Ultimate Rebel, Gone At 82
By Mack Rawden 2011-10-08 14:13:57
Al Davis was a scrapper. He never came across a battle he didn’t fight, and he never met a man he wouldn’t stare down. He was the living, breathing embodiment of all the Oakland Raiders symbolized during both the best and worst of times. He died this morning at the age of eighty-two, every bit as polarizing as he’d ever been. Al Davis wouldn’t have had it any other way.
In 1963, Al Davis was brought in to act as coach and general manager of the struggling Oakland Raiders. His first season, the club went 10-4, and he won coach of the year. He left three years later to be the AFL commissioner bur returned almost immediately after the NFL merger was announced, picking up a ten percent ownership stake. For the rest of his life, he remained bitter about the AFL’s folding into the NFL, but by looking for that same hostility in players and coaches, Davis transformed the Raiders into the ultimate rebels.
His motto was “Just win, baby”, and for a long time, the Raiders did a lot of it. We often equate sports teams with their locations. Someone tells you he’s a Buffalo Bills fan, you ask if he’s from upstate New York, but for a long time, being a Raiders fan frequently said more about a person’s personality than it did his location. Being a Raiders fan meant you’d fought for everything you’d ever gotten. It meant you were the type of person willing to impose your will by any means necessary. In short, it meant you were a mean son of a bitch and you wore that slur as a badge of honor.
During his tenure atop the Raiders, his teams won three Super Bowls, fifteen division championships and twenty-one playoff appearances. They also moved to Los Angeles, back to Oakland and sued the NFL numerous times. Al Davis was never interested in doing anything conventional, which is probably why he’s the only executive I know who once traded his coach.
Love him or hate him, Al Davis lived life on his terms. His slicked back hair and combative personality were points of pride in a league that’s gone increasingly P.C. and corporate. I’ll miss him a lot, but then again, I’m also a son of a bitch.