Sunday, October 09, 2011

Al Davis

Yeah. It's John Lennon's birthday, life is roasted with turmoil and sauced with grief and regret, I'm still processing whether those occupistas are dirty hippies, slackers, bums, or class heroes, it's the Redskins' bye week and I've no idea what to do about the wide receiver slot in the league where I own both Santana Moss and Jabar Gaffney, and I bought hockey tickets for a night when there's a DCU home game, again, but fuck all that, I wanna talk about Al Davis.

What a fucking genius. Brethren too wrapped up in angst to discuss anything else might label Davis as one of the exploiters (or I might be cruel, and they might be just as likely to enjoy this NFL Sunday as I am). People who didn't like him or the Raiders or his dark glasses or his style are making zombie jokes, and even some of us who liked him only put those jokes in a little box on hearing of Davis' death. I'm not sure what the decent interval for pulling them out is, but I'll get there on the math.

There are a number of salient things to note about Al Davis--a passionate student of the game, an independent-minded coach and owner who loved his franchise and his players and coaches and fans, a man who was the first in our time to hire a black coach, a man who loved to take a giant dump on the chest of the NFL corporate entity (sadly for the angst-ridden, it was mostly in his self-interest to do so). His passion for winning, beyond his passion for the game itself, was hard to match.

Look, when I was a kid, I hated the Raiders, and I sure wasn't fond of them when that little golden prick Jon Gruden was their coach. Sometimes, that sort of historical hatin' holds up under grownup scrutiny; witness my feelings about the Packers, a team from out of my team's division, not a historical rival at all, not even linked in any level of consciousness with my beloved Redskins for anything more than a single game at a time. That's how much I hated the juggernaut teams of the 60s, and it was easy for me to put the Raiders in that bucket.

Eventually I woke up and stopped buying mindlessly into villain narratives.1 I figured out some of the shit Al Davis did in his time as a professional football icon, realized that the Raiders were doing something very different from what other clubs did (and winning their share by doing it), took a look at the names of some of the men whose fabulous NFL careers were linked to his. Holy fucking crap. Look at the plethora of stories on his passing, the list of NFL names associated with him, the things people are saying. One sports bobblehead lands on a gem of an observation: We talk about the modern era of thus and such a sport or pursuit; with a league with no Al Davis, the modern era begins now.

I admit that I only started to be a good neighbor to Raider Nation late in life, specifically when they acquired a number of players fairly dear to my heart. Today, I'm saddened for Raider Nation and for the league.

RIP, Al Davis. Just win, baby.

1When it pleases me to stop buying in. Fuck you, I'll villainize whoever I damn well please.


Sasha said...

Whew, just noticed the footnote in time. I have fondness for somebody who did every thing in his power to block the holy hell out of the abomination that is the NFL-AFL merger. (Yes, I'm still bitter.)

Randal Graves said...

Every time someone types Al Davis, the NFL Films Raiders theme music should be playing.