One year ago today, a seemingly normal Saturday morning, changed my life forever. I was sitting in my living room that morning, drinking a cup of coffee and doing a little research to decide who to start/sit in my FFL’s. My boys were up and playing Black Ops on the big screen T.V., when I first saw a headline saying that he had passed away the night before. I was in complete shock. Never before had the death of someone who was no relation to me, have as much of an impact as that. Not John Lennon (one of my all-time favorite musicians), not even Robert and John F. Kennedy. I immediately texted a member of RaiderNation, who I have never met, but am good friends with over social media. David was in shock as well. He said that it was as if a member of his own family had died. I felt the same way. Only the death of one of my close family members could have affected me that way. That probably sounds strange to many of you. But Al Davis was a man that I looked up to. He was a hero in my eyes. He was everything I wanted to be, and changed my life in so many ways. On top of that, he was owner and architect of the greatest team ever to wear a uniform, the Oakland Raiders.
Now I could go on and on here about what Al Davis was, and the impact he had, not only on the NFL, but sports in general. I have done that before, in fact my first ever published article was a tribute to him, and it was that article that got me this writing gig at silverandblackdaily.com, for which I will be eternally grateful. This allows me an outlet to express things that I am very passionate about, in a venue that allows me the freedom to choose my own subject matter. A big thank-you is in order here to Aaron Morales, the owner and creator of silverandblackdaily.com, and a man who strives to provide quality content for our fellow members of RaiderNation. But rather than writing the article again, I am going to repost it. This way, all of the passion I put into it almost a year ago, is still there. And though we are not in the same situation we were in a year ago, I still feel the same. The Superbowl is still there for the taking, we just need to go out and take it. Here is the original, that I feel just as passionate about today:
I am Will Dunn, a long time Raiders fan who is known as 0ldTimerR8rFan on Twitter and the ESPN Raiders Forum. I would first like to thank Mr. Barksdale for giving me the opportunity to post on his blog, I consider it very much an honor to do so. For those of you who do not follow his blog regularly, I would urge you to do so. I personally find it a breath of fresh air as compared to many others I have read in the past. But enough about all of this, my desire to be a guest blogger here was fueled by my desire for a tribute to Al Davis, from a fan’s perspective, so on to the business at hand.
When I first heard about Mr. Davis’ passing, I sent a text message to a friend of mine, David, who lives back east and is the only one I know who has been a Raiders fan as long as I have. David said it best when he texted me back and said he felt as if a member of his own family had died. I felt the same way. I was not myself that weekend at all, and still get a lump in my throat when I think about it. Thank goodness my Raiders, against all odds, with emotions swirling, went out and “won one for the Gipper” so to speak, as they pulled out the win against the Texans with a game saving interception by Michael Huff, having only 10 men on the field. Was Al Davis the 11th man on that play? I will leave that for you to contemplate. I was particularly touched to hear that Huff gave the intercepted ball to the Davis family. Classy move by a classy player. I have purveyed that to him via Twitter.
When you hear people talk about Mr. Davis, you will hear the term maverick, and a maverick he was. Frank Sinatra singing My Way, would be the perfect song for an Al Davis tribute. Al Davis did it his way, whether anyone else agreed or not. As a student of Sid Gillman when Davis worked as an offensive line coach for the Chargers, Davis became one of the games major proponents of the “vertical game”, a strategy he adhered to until the day he passed from this earth, and the strategy that is one of the defining factors of the Raiders organization. It was this that first captured my admiration of the Raiders when I was just a kid. The excitement of the long ball has always fascinated me, whether it be Daryle Lamonica to Warren Wells, Kenny Stabler to Cliff Branch, all the way to our present day Carson Palmer to one of our young WR’s. How does this make Al Davis a maverick you may ask. Because most everyone else in the league has abandoned this philosophy, but not Davis. The other teams say you must take what the opponent gives you, but Davis has never agreed with that. The Raiders will take what the Raiders want to take, whether the other team wants to give it to us or not. He has always said, I would rather be feared, than be respected. The Raiders have lived this for as long as I have followed them, and that has been for a very long time, almost 50 years now. It reminds me of my very favorite poem, written by Steve Sabol.
“The Autumn Wind is a pirate Blustering in from sea With a rollicking song he sweeps along swaggering boisterously His face is weather beaten He wears a hooded sash With his silver hat about his head And a bristly black mustache He growls as he storms the country A villain big and bold And the trees all shake and quiver and quake As he robs them of their gold The Autumn wind is a Raider Pillaging just for fun He’ll knock you ’round and upside down And laugh when he’s conquered and won.”
There are so many other things that Mr. Davis was (and is) such as a ground breaker. Davis was the first to start a hispanic QB (Tom Flores). He was the first to hire a black coach (Art Shell). He was the first to have black and white players room together. He was the only one ever to refuse to play a game (in Mobile Alabama) because their segregation laws would not allow his black players to stay in the same hotel as the white players. He was the first and only owner to hire a woman as CEO of the organization. You see, Al Davis never looked at the color of a man’s skin, or if they were an outcast of some kind, he looked at their desire and love for the game. If you loved the game and were willing to give it everything you had, then you were his kind of player. And if you loved the Raiders like he did, then you were family, and he always took care of family.
There are so many other things I could write about Mr. Davis, but probably the most impressive thing was his passion. Passion for football, and more importantly, his passion for his Raiders. There are so many that have criticized him over the years. Saying that he had lost it, and that he was meddling with the success of the team. Sure the Raiders have had a bad stretch, but what team doesn’t? One thing has never wavered through thick and thin, and that was his love for his organization, and I say “his” organization because the Raiders were, and are Al Davis personified. Although Al has passed from this world, his spirit lives on in the Raiders.
Draft days will never be the same now that he will not be calling the shots. I am going to miss seeing his picks that the sports casters ridicule, smack them in the face when they prove that Mr. Davis was right all along. Mr. Barksdale, you have had the honor of being the last Offensive Lineman that Mr. Davis will ever draft. I hope you realize what a true honor this should be for you. He would not have chosen you if he didn’t see the talent in you to be an elite tackle in the NFL.
Al Davis was a truly amazing man, coach, owner, and humanitarian. His football knowledge was second to none. His love for football, and the Raider organization was unparalleled. The NFL would not be what is is today were it not for him.
As I come to a close here, I would like to speak to the Raider players, if any of them read this blog (and I sincerely hope they will). The Superbowl ring is one of Al Davis’ most prized possessions. It belongs to him and the Raiders. It is there for the taking. Remember, the Raiders don’t take what they are given, they take what they want. It is rightfully yours. The Autumn Wind is a pirate, The Autumn Wind is a Raider, The Autumn Wind is the spirit of Al Davis Go take what is rightfully yours. Go RAIDERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It is hard to believe that it has been a year, but maybe that is because I will never forget him, I will never forget what he has done for the NFL, and most importantly, I will never forget what he has done for, and meant to, my beloved Oakland Raiders. May you rest in peace forever Mr. Davis! Peace out RaiderNation!!
Questions? Comments? Email me at OldTimer@silverandblackdaily.com