As much as Al Davis became a caricature of himself later in life, he was a pioneer who was instrumental in advancing the American Football League to prominence and legitimacy in the 1960s. He demanded a "Commitment to Excellence."
Al Davis was many things: audacious, visionary, paranoid, brilliant, cantankerous, iconoclastic, iconic, quirky, truculent, enigmatic, driven, egotistical, eccentric, bold, accusatory, vindictive, sly, crusty, bizarre, fierce, stubborn, irascible, intractable, vitriolic, tenacious, myopic, micromanager, rigid, pioneering, selfish, feisty, ingenious, draconian, troubled, temperamental, rebellious, outspoken, football strategist, business tycoon and empire builder. All of that, and more.
Davis saw himself as a maverick and set the impassioned "Pride and Poise" identity of the Raiders, although the team often lacked poise, if not pride, through the years, as one of the perennially most penalized and mistake-prone teams in the NFL.
The late, great Hunter S. Thompson wrote often and at length about Oakland Al, and it is all worth reading. As HST noted, Al Davis was the persona and identity of the Raiders and everything that went with the team's mystique:
"Every game was a terrifying adventure, win or lose, and the Raiders of the '70s usually won -- except in Pittsburgh, where cruel things happened and many dreams died horribly. You could see the early beginnings of what would evolve into the massive Raider Nation, which is beyond doubt the sleaziest and rudest and most sinister mob of thugs and whackos ever assembled in such numbers under a single "roof," so to speak, anywhere in the English-speaking world. No doubt there are other profoundly disagreeable cults that meet from time to time in most of the 50 states."
Indeed, for a few years, the 1970s Raiders-Steelers rivalry was as bitter, vicious and intense as any rivalry, though it didn't have the longevity of the Steelers-Browns or the Bears-Packers.
It will be interesting to see what becomes of the Raiders now. For that matter, it should be interesting to see how the Raiders play the Texans in Houston tomorrow. Davis would surely say, "Just win, baby."
First Steve Jobs, then Al Davis. Truly, the end of an era. Joey Porter's Pit Bulls would say,"Rest in Peace," but we're pretty sure Davis wouldn't want to hear it. We're pretty sure he didn't go quietly.
Oh, and we still have the Oakland Raiders Christmas card that Al Davis once sent our way. He was full of surprises.
- Doug Farrar at Shutdown Corner
- Greg Rosenthal at ProFootballTalk
- Will Brinson at CBS Sportsline
- San Francisco Chronicle
- Gary Peterson: "Al Davis did It His Way"
- Oakland Tribune: "The Al Davis Legacy: Innovator, Fighter, Maverick"
- Gwenn Knapp: "Hard to believe that stubborn Davis is really gone"
- San Francisco Chronicle Editorial: "Al Davis, an original"