RIP Al Davis

Posted on October 9, 2011

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The Crypt Keeper has now suffered his own fate as we learned yesterday morning of the passing of long time Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis. Davis served in several positions during his days in football, but is best known for being the operator of the three-ring circus we know as Raider Nation.

Davis’ passing is an especially polarizing event for the Pop Fly Boys, with me being a long-time Raiders fan – and former Oakland resident – and Jeremy being a Kansas City lifer. I embraced the us against them attitude that Al Davis took to running his NFL team, and as an African-American, I was especially appreciative of the truly color blind approach he had to building champions. “Just Win Baby” was not just some corny catch phrase for Davis, he truly wanted the best men on the field and on the sidelines. My father, like many Black men of his generation, loves the Raiders precisely because Davis was the first owner to give us a chance at being more than just foot soldiers, so it’s no surprise that, even through the 90s, when the Raiders became a powerful symbol for urban culture, especially along the west coast, that many of us remain loyal to the Silver and Black.

Being from Kansas City Jeremy got plenty of doses of Al Davis through the years, and what he concluded was this; Al Davis ran his football team as if he was actually down on the field in the trenches lining up against anyone who dared get in his way – players, personnel, colleagues, owners, and even the commissioner. Who can’t respect that? I mean, in my professional history there is nothing that I respect more than knowing that a superior is ready, willing and able to go to battle with me at any given time.

Davis pioneered the idea – now represented by other copy cat owners like the Cowboys’ Jerry Jones – of the players being a reflection of their owner, and not the head coach, and even the team’s most intense rivals recognized that. Beating the Raiders was not just winning another football game, it was, as Mike Ditka stated, a sign that your team had arrived.

Davis has been on the sour end of many jokes over the years, but the true mark of the man lies with how he was able to persevere and operate completely deaf to the noise around him.  Davis was in the spotlight a lot with more than his fair share of questionable draft picks and his poor handling of team personnel, but the Raiders were his outfit, and he didn’t give a damn what others thought. He clearly embraced the negative backlash and the monetary slap on the wrist.

It seems impossible for a place known as “The Black Hole” to see darker days, but the passing of Davis will cast a shadow on the entire league.  I may have laughed at the occasional poke at him, and I’m sure some will take this opportunity to do just that, but I will pass this time and take a minute to honor the family and friends of Al Davis. The game won’t be the same without him and he will be truly missed.  RIP Al Davis.

Posted in: NFL