Al Davis, R.I.P.

Al Davis

So apparently Steve Jobs died last week? Perhaps you heard about it. Seems like everyone raced to their Zunes to eulogize the man who, quite literally, revolutionized the way we ignore homeless people on our walk to work. Just a whole lot of blubbering and crying and waxing poetic about iPads and Newtons and other fully assembled and ready-to-go computational machines. So yeah, he was a huge deal and I’m not sure how we’ll ever make it in his absence.

It would take a truly remarkable man’s death to overshadow the Apple guru’s passing. And so we can be thankful for Al Davis, who shuffled off this mortal coil on Saturday, slipping the surly bonds of earth, blah blah, whatever. I probably don’t need to tell you this, but Al Davis epitomized everything this website is about. Through sheer cunning and derring-do, Davis committed his life to two things: lawsuits and trolling the everliving s**t out of the most successful sports league this country has ever known.

After the jump, just read baby….

Lat has no idea who Al Davis is, so let’s do a quick tutorial. He was the owner of the Oakland Raiders. He looked like The Crypt Keeper. He flouted all sorts of social conventions, including, but not limited to, the wearing of white tracksuits and sunglasses indoors. He also looked like Hoggle from Labyrinth. He probably smelled like Aqua Velva. He also looked like the World’s Ugliest Dog. He was the owner of the Oakland Raiders and he was not what we would call classically good-looking, I guess is what I’m saying.

But it is not his physical resemblance to a troll that interests us today. No, it is his devotion to the Trolling Arts and his devotion to litigation that makes his a life worth celebrating. Every story written about the old man’s death devotes several inches to the litany of lawsuits he filed. Por ejemplo, the pumpkin-headed Peter King notes in his remembrance that Al Davis was responsible for Pete Rozelle’s resignation as commissioner of the NFL, writing that “Rozelle was sick of fighting Davis in court over the movement of his franchise.”

And the man’s Wikipedia entry reserves an entire section for his “legal battles.” Davis moved the Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles and then back to Oakland, each time initiating a lawsuit against the NFL. While he won his first lawsuit against the league in order to move the franchise to Los Angeles, his later legal machinations showed a distinct lack of concern with just winning. His wiki entry notes that “[w]hen the upstart United States Football League filed its antitrust suit in 1986, Davis was the only NFL owner who sided with the USFL.” LOL.

And it gets better. The Sacramento Bee’s eulogy of Davis mentions the following (commenting on Davis’s decision to move the Raiders back to Oakland in 1995):

The NFL said the Raiders abandoned Los Angeles simply because they thought they had found a better deal in Oakland; Davis asserted the league forced him to retreat to Oakland by interfering with his attempt to secure a modern stadium with luxury boxes and other amenities.

He insisted the Raiders retained the territorial rights to the nation’s second-largest TV market and, if the league tried to place another team in Los Angeles, it would have to buy the rights back from the Raiders.

In 2001, Davis lost his $1.2 billion lawsuit against the league in Los Angeles Superior Court. Davis appealed the ruling but lost.

Davis moved his team after roughly a decade in Los Angeles and then claimed he still owned the territorial rights to the L.A. market. Could he have possibly won with such a claim? Does it matter? Did it ever? Most stories about Davis claim that the enmity between Davis and the NFL originated in the old AFL days when Davis, as commissioner of the upstart league, thought the NFL screwed the AFL during merger negotiations. While that’s a perfectly pleasant story, I choose to believe that Davis wasn’t driven by some petty butthurt from way back when. Instead, I think Davis was quite simply… a troll. And trolls aren’t mad. No, u mad. And trolls don’t care about winning. Or, rather, they care about winning something much greater than money or victories. Davis was in it for the lulz. Just lulz baby. This, fair reader… THIS is a life worth celebrating.

In the comments, feel free to speculate on what Al Davis might have really smelled like, share your stone cold lock for next weekend’s slate of games, or just name your favorite Raiders player of all-time. Besides Jamarcus Russell.

Al Davis [Wikipedia]
Davis impacted football history, and did it on his own terms [cnnsi.com]
Raider owner Al Davis was a force in the NFL [Sacramento Bee]


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