You are a Raider.
byon 10-08-2011 at 11:24 AM (1507 Views)
"And Raiders Don't Die"
Those are the words the great Al Davis said to his friend and Oakland Raiders Band leader Del Courtney, in 1971, as Del was struggling with Guillain-Barre syndrome, which induces paralysis. Al sat with his friend in the hospital as many expected the band leader to die. "Godfather" Al did the one thing the one in the books and movies could not do, he staved off death. Del Courtney passed in February 2006, at the age of 95.
No one with that kind of juice was by Mr. Davis' side when he passed in the morning hours of October 8th.
The news leaked out. First just with a picture and vague rumblings of an announcement later. Then the articles all over the internet.
Al Davis was as the Oakland Raiders were, loved or hated, respected or reviled, admired or wished dead. There seldom was any middle ground with him.
Hidden underneath the toughness, was a heart his family and his players knew.
When Tim Brown's wife was having twins, Tim got around with help from Al Davis. When Willie Thomas had a death in his family, but wanted to make the game, he made the service and the game in the same week end, with the help of Al Davis. When Al's wife was in the hospital after a heart attack and in a coma, he didn't leave her side. He was there day after day, willing her to come back to him. And she did. When Dan Turk was stricken with cancer, and the people from the Redskins had little to no contact with him, it was Mr. Davis calling his wife asking what she needed. At Dan Turk's service, there was a picture of Dan - in his Raiders uniform.
But one didn't have to be a Raider to see Al's good side. When Terry Bradshaw retired from the game, Al Davis called him and said if he ever needed anything to just pick up the phone. When Derrick Thomas was in the hospital, the only team owner to visit him was Al Davis. And there are so many more things that people just do NOT know.
Carl Weathers credited Al Davis with changing his life forever back in 1970, when Carl was a rookie linebacker with the Raiders.
Bill 'The Big Tuna' Parcells said that Al Davis was the smartest man he ever met.
Bill Walsh said "He was one of the great coaches I have ever observed ... a truly great coach" , and "Had he chosen to remain in coaching, he would be considered one of the great coaches of all time."
I think that can be said of Al Davis regardless. Just because he was not employed at that title did not mean he wasn't still coaching. It was just a couple of weeks ago that Hue Jackson referred to him as Coach Davis.
I would consider him more than a just a footabll coach.
In the 60s, Al Davis did not permit his Raiders team to participate in an exhibition game in the south. Why? his players would be segregated. They would be staying in different hotels. I remember hearing that the water fountains at the stadium were for whites only. He could not participate in something like that, nor would he be around for people being treated like that. So the Raiders did not play. I know it had to mean a loss of money, but that was not what mattered to him.
He meant what he said, and said what he meant. Loyalty was law to Al Davis.
From his days at Syracuse to the day he died, Al would not give a damn about race, gender or age. I can quote the many people that have said things about him on this topic, but I think most Raiders fans have those. But from Bernie Custis to Amy Trask, Lance Alworth to Willie Brown, they all know that his personal code of honor was just that.
Players that experienced careers after their playing days with the Raiders include Fred Biletnikoff, Willie Brown, Steve Wisniewski, Rod Woodson, Terry Robiskie, Calvin Branch, Zack Crockett and Greg Biekert. It is rumored that Mr. Davis may have had a hand in Jack Tatum getting his job with the NFL. Players that received chances because of their association to the team include Todd Marinovich and Bruce Davis II. While being a starter, and considered a good draft pick, Stefen Wisniewiski is the nephew of a long time Raider great, Steve Wisniewski.
Look at his organization. The job of equipment manager went from father to son in the Romanski family.
As far as I know, he is the only individual that introduced 9 people as they were inducted into Canton. This includes long time Charger Lance Alworth. Al was his position coach his rookie year. Lance was in the league from 1962 to 1972, and a man that his coach for his first season was the one that stood up for him as he wore that yellow gold coat.
Rod Woodson played in the NFL from 1987 -2003 for 4 teams. 1987 to 1996 he was with the Steelers. He played for one season for the 49ers. He was with the Ravens from '98 to '01, and a Raider from '02- '03. Now he coaches for the Raiders. That says something about the organization and Al Davis, a man that was considered a players' owner.
Richard Seymour has recently said not only was he born to be a Raider, that he wants to retire a Raider.
It is well known that he went from coach to commissioner to owner, something no other man can lay claim to. He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame for his contributions to the NFL, in direct relation to everything he accomplished as a coach, commissioner and owner. And that is only one of many recognitions he has received over his many years.
He was a visionary.
It was a conflict in which he wanted luxury boxes built in the now O.com Coliseum back in the late 70s that caused him to be sued for eminent domain over ownership of the Raiders. It is known that Al Davis won, and moved his team to get what he thought the team deserved. Those that believe in revisionist history pay no mind that Al was sued first back in those days. Ironically, it took about 15 years for him to get what he wanted from the coliseum in Oakland. But he got it. And there hasn't been a new stadium built without those luxury boxes. I often refer to that time as the Raiders "hiatus". I called Los Angeles "Southern Oakland", always knowing Al would bring the Raiders home.
Everyone that has talked to him about football has remarked about his vast knowledge, and for those lucky enough to have experienced it, how he could break down game film. He dedicated all that knowledge and experience to make the Raiders the best team he could.
He once commented that working for the Raiders was great. If one was the head coach and things went well, the coach got the credit. If things went bad, Al took the blame. Truer words were never said.
I do not think there is a Raiders fan around that has not questioned some of his decisions. I did. But I also know I was never privy to what he knew. I can only aspire to know 1/100th of what he knew and understood about the game.
In these last seasons, it was known his health was failing. But how many knew what was wrong? He was intensely private about that. Sadly, he was much sicker than many knew, and as sick as many thought, and yet, he still carried himself with a dignity not seen by many.
Today is a dark, dark day for the Raiders and the NFL. We lost a man that did things his own way and often thumbed his nose at the NFL, including abstaining from voting on the most current CBA that ended the NFL lock out this very season. A man, a legend, the Raiders best acquisition, and biggest loss. He put his life's blood into the Raiders.
I have cried this day, and am not ashamed to say it. I am saddened that I will never see him hoist the Lombardi trophy again.
My only comfort is that he is with his old friend, Del, and am sure Bill (Walsh). His players that he looked out for, Jack (Tatum), George (Blanda), SKip (Thomas), Bubba (Smith), Dan (Turk), Dave (Dalby), Neil (Colzie), Gene (Upshaw), Eric (Turner), Stacy (Toran).., and too many others. He is not in pain, no longer struggling. He has the best seat in the house and can talk about the thing he loved most, his beloved Raiders.
Rest in peace, Al. On second thought, do it your way, just as you always have.