The death of Al Davis yesterday was a shock. He was one of those guys that you think will be around forever.
I loved Al DAvis for decades, but hated him for taking the LA Raiders back to Oakland in 1994. I hardly missed a game throughout their LA years, but haven’t been to an NFL game since they left. OK, there are no NFL games to go to in LA, but in recent years I’ve been to baseball games in San Francisco and Seattle, and those cities have NFL teams. I’ve been to Chicago, New York, Phoenix, even Oakland, and other NFL cities, but the idea of going to an NFL game was never a consideration.
But back to Al.
Those who respect him now praise him, even if their personal feelings were not exactly of fondness. (See statements from Lane Kiffin and Marcus Allen, for example.) His aura seems to have made that mandatory.
I don’t need to list his accomplishments, they are legion, and are listed in every obituary. What I want to say is this: He is rightly given credit for the AFL-NFL merger that created the modern, immensely prosperous structure of professional football, but what people have now long forgotten, is that he was bitterly against the merger.
His blueprint as AFL Commissioner to bring the NFL to its knees had worked perfectly, and his master plan was not to join the NFL, but to defeat it, and make the AFL the dominant professional football league. But, he had but one vote in the then nine-team AFL, and the majority of AFL owners had monumental NFL-envy and had formed the original AFL only because they had been shut out of the NFL. When the NFL called, they immediately dropped their fight, and ran with checkbooks in hand, and joined the enemy.
Al continued his personal war against the NFL establishment, and its commissioner Pete Rozelle, for many years, and had victory after victory, which I am sure he thoroughly savored. If he could not defeat them in the boardroom, he would, and did, defeat them in the courtroom and on the field, and ultimately his biggest victory came at Canton, Ohio, when, in 1992, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
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