I’m an Oakland Raiders fan – have been since I was a young kid growing up in Northern California. In recent years, people have been surprised to hear me declare my loyalty as the team was sacked, blocked and otherwise beaten down one game after the next. But I’m proud to say that I never gave up on the organization – from the players all the way up to Mr. Davis.
You see, unlike a lot of my Silver-and-Black brethren, I was also a big fan of Al Davis, the man at the top of the Raiders organization. As we know, Mr. Davis passed away days before the Raiders faced the Houston Texans in what turned out to be a thrilling game. I even loved some of the commentary after the final play of the game, with the thought of divine intervention by Al Davis to make sure that the boys would “Just Win, Baby.”
You see, Al Davis was the Raiders. He turned them into the organization that they are – the team that gets a bad rap, the team that everyone else loves to hate, the team that may not make it to the playoffs but will ruin it for a rival by winning a final week game that everyone had already written off. And when they’re in their glory, well… there’s no living with a Raiders fan at that point.
That’s why I could never understand how anyone could say they love the Raiders but hate Al Davis. It just doesn’t work that way.
Personally, I had a deep respect for Mr. Davis. He wasn’t afraid to zig left when everybody else zagged right. That shows great vision, character, strength and just plain guts – doing the right thing when it’s not popular. Without regard to public opinion, including his own Raider fan base at times, he did whatever he thought was best for his team. To the end, his “Just Win, Baby” mantra guided his life, his team and the way he conducted business.
In some ways, he was also a business hero of mine, someone who inspired me to zig left in business while my counterparts zagged right. A CNN reporter once called me “crazy” for trying to challenge the mighty Craigslist over their site content. But it doesn’t bother me one bit – because I know that conforming to the ways of others isn’t how you measure success and failure.
The Raiders are off to a strong start this season – and I’m right there with them, a former season ticket holder (my name is on a plaque at the Coliseum) who has since landed in the Washington DC area but maintains his loyalty from afar via Directv’s NFL Sunday Ticket.
I’ll fly out west for a game later in the season, just as I do every year. But I can’t help but wonder if it will feel different there in the Coliseum, somehow, without Mr. Davis behind the glass in his suite, overlooking as the Nation cheers on the Silver and Black.
Rest in Peace, Al Davis. You created a legacy. We’ll help you keep it alive.