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Al Davis Special

Dee (David Yun) Dee (David Yun): (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2011-10-10 02:43:02

Inducted Into the HoF as a Chief

Doesn't Marcus Allen despise Al Davis?

Paul Yim Paul Yim: (paulyim-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2011-10-10 13:19:05

Just Win

Al Davis was a polarizing figure in professional football. Most football fans generally considered him a lunatic but there are some who considered him a hero and still worship him today, even after his death. Being a long-time fan of the Raiders, I consider him an anti-hero who eventually lost his way.

Many fans will remember the glory days when Al led the silver and black to the top of the A.F.L. pile and when then head coach John Madden led the team to its first of three Super Bowl victories. That was a time when football fans shook their heads in grudging respect rather than open derision for it seemed that the maverick of pro football could do no wrong.

Consider that Davis was the owner of a professional football team during the socially chaotic times of the 1960s. He refused, on more than one occasion, to play a game in a venue where segregation laws were in place. Many years later, when such things as segregation laws were a thing of the past, he still managed to outdo his fellow owners by hiring the first Black head coach in the N.F.L. -- Art Shell. And, let's not forget Amy Trask. She went from being an intern for the Raiders's front office during her school days at Cal Berkley to being the only female CEO of a professional football team in the N.F.L. She earned her position as an executive officer of the team but it was Al Davis who gave her that opportunity.

And let's not forget the man's part in history. When Davis was made commissioner of the A.F.L. in 1966 he aggressively went after N.F.L. players in a bidding war. He was so successful, the owners of both leagues held secret talks and eventually agreed on a merger. Ironically, Davis was against the merger in principal but it was his aggressive tactics that brought about the end of the A.F.L. and the emergence of the Super Bowl.

So why was he vilified? Why, after almost a half-century of "commitment to excellence" was he considered a pariah? The answer lies with the man himself -- his character. Of the many foibles that bring down heroes, Davis's Achilles heel was his pride. His pride served him well when he refused to back down to the then mighty N.F.L. when he was commissioner of the fledgling A.F.L., but when he tried to bench Marcus Allen for two years over contract disputes or when he refused to show up for Tim Brown's retirement announcement his pride turned into hubris. When then coach Jon Gruden was "traded" to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (the "other" pirate team, the team who's colors used to be orange on white) for two draft picks and 8 million dollars it was commonly believed that it was over personnel disputes that Davis just couldn't let go. The following year Gruden's Buccaneers met and defeated the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII. The shame of that defeat was palpable throughout Raider Nation.

Hubris comes from a Greek word that implies blindness -- blind ambition, blind faith -- that defied the gods. In his time, Al Davis has created a legacy that will never be forgotten but he has also committed great offenses against the football gods. The Raiders will need time to regain a level of professionalism that is, at least, on par with their fellow N.F.L. teams. The commitment to excellence will have to be revised as a commitment to professionalism for the time being. But one day, in the near future, the Autumn Wind will rise again.

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