Raiders owner Al Davis, one of those truly only-in-America stories, turns 82 today.
Here’s a column on Davis posted on the Inside Bay Area Web site by longtime columnist Martin Snapp which illustrates the “you’re with us or you’re against us” approach the Raiders owner had with the media back in the 60s.
As the column illustrates, Davis’ acts of behind-the-scenes kindness for those he feels are in his corner are legendary.
Davis hasn’t had regular exchanges with the local media for years now, saving his best theater for press conference situations where he demonstrates he’ll turn on a coach in a minute if they do anything to undermine the greatness of his Raiders. That’s the other side of Al, and no less fascinating.
At an advanced age, the challenges have never been greater for the organization which has been his life. The Raiders face serious economic difficulties in an environment the richest owners are looking to maximize profits for themselves at the expense of the league as a whole.
The Raiders reached mediocrity last year at 8-8 after an unprecedented run of seven consecutive seasons of 11 or more losses, and Davis is looking to Hue Jackson to help him return his team to championship form.
From a purely selfish perspective, here’s hoping Davis gets his wish. As John Madden has said hundreds of times, the NFL is a better and more interesting league when the Raiders are good. Depending on how long the lockout continues, the NFL will need all the help it can get.