What the pundits, the powers that be, and sometimes, seeming, even the man himself could not do, God, Satan, Buddha, or Darwin and the Biologists, took care of for him. The passing of Al Davis on October 8th, 2011 will be noted with both alacrity and tribulation, but should not be forgotten. Regardless of whether loved him or liked him, despised or hated him, you have to respect the man, despite his recent decline into a caricature of his former self. The NFL would not be what it is today without Al Davis.
In many respects, the Oakland Raiders that he revitalized when took an ownership role in the 60’s and rebuilt and recreated the teamover and over again was very much like a wondrous house of cards that he kept from falling through his sheer force of will. Just win, Baby! In the younger better days, it win he did, and win they did. The Oakland Raiders were a force to be reckoned with and refuge for troubled and misfit talents. And it was Al Davis who held it all together. It Al Davis, after all who brought us John Madden. And what would the NFL be without John Madden…..just another focking sport, that’s what. But as the years wore along, after the Those great Super Bowl wins and all that unholy glory, Al Davis wore thin, and the cards became tattered and started to fall. But Al Davis didn’t quit, he tried to keep them up, he didn’t walk away to a happy retirement that many of us, fan and foe alike would have wished. He kept on, committed to excellence, a concept that eluded him and team in it’s recent years, right up until the very end.
So today I offer condolences to the family of Al Davis and to Raider Nation, and despite not being a fan, I offer my respect and appreciation for what he brought to the Game of football. A gutsyness. An attitude of fuck-all and screw the authorities. That commitment to excellence. Just win, Baby.
I think back to Super Bowl II, January 14, 1968, the day after my 15th birthday. It was a great game, and the Packers beat the Oakland Raiders 33-14. 4 Don Chandler field goals and a 60 yard Herb Adderley pick 6 were the difference the game. There was no AFC at that point. It was league vs league. The only time the NFL and the AFL would play each was in the Super Bowl. The Packers made the Super Bowl with 9-4-1 regular season record. The Raiders had the best record in football that season, 13-1…the only loss being to the New York Jets..a game in which DE Ben Davidson, on of the Raider “11 Angry Men” defense, broke Joe Namath’s jaw when he sacked him ((the trademark Al Davis attitude was already there)). The Raiders had an easy path to the Super Bowl crushing the Houston Oilers 40-7 in the AFC Championship game…Jim Otto at center, Gene Upshaw at guard, Darryl Lamonica at QB and Fred Biletnikoff on the receiving end of his passes. They were a force to be reckoned with.
The Packers trek to Super Bowl II was a much tougher one. Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung had retired to be replaced by Elijah Pitts and Jim Grabowski. But both Pitts and Grabowski went down with injuries to replaced with reserve back Donny Andersen and rookie Travis “The Roadrunner” Williams. Castoff Chuck Mercein was signed as a free agent at fullback. Bart Starr had Carroll Dale and Boyd Dowler to whom Bart Starr fired a thrilling 62 yard TD pass in the 2nd quarter to put the Pack up 13-0. But getting there was a tough road. In the last three games of the regular season, the Packers, quite frankly sucked, giving up 78 of the 209 point they gave the entire season in those last three games. They recovered in the playoffs, winning the Western Division championship over the Los Angeles Rams 28-7 at County Stadium in Milwaukee. That set up the most legendary football game in NFL History: The Ice Bowl.
On December 31, 1967, with the temperature of -20°F and a windchill of -50°F, with 16 seconds left and the Packers down 20-17, Bart Starr called Brown Right 31 Wedge, and instead of handing off to Mercein he followed his center Ken Bowman and right guard Jerry Kramer’s double-team block of Cowboys DT Jethro Pugh into endzone for what was and is the greatest win in Packer history. ((As a little aside, I was not at that game, but I watched at home in Appleton, Wisconsin with my father and grandpa and my younger brother. But there are probably at least 500,000 people in Green Bay and Appleton alone who claim to have been there)). So that is what the Oakland Raiders were faced with. As bad and tough as the Raiders were, they had nothing to top that.
The Packer’s were favored by 13 1/2 in Super Bowl II and covered the spread. They won 33-14. But with the first two Super Bowls in the books, the seeds were sown for the merger of the upstart AFL and the long-established NFL. And Al Davis was a vital force in the merger.
After Super Bowl II, the Packers didn’t win another one until Super Bowl XXXI in 1996. Al Davis and his villainous house of cards, his maverick band of misfits and tough guys, Jim Plunkett, Lyle Alzado, John Matuszak, Howie Long and the rest went on to win 3 Super Bowls in the late 70’s-early 80’s. But after a calamitous 48-21 loss to Tampa Bay in Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003, the decline of and the disrepair in Al Davis’s house of cards that was obvious to some at the time, became more and more evident as time wore on. Sadly, in a sense, time passed Al Davis by…and he never got another shot at the Green Bay Packers. During the decline, Al Davis came be seen as more of a misanthrope than a maverick. And today, the house of cards has fallen. And Al Davis is gone.
But his legacy lives on. The NFL as we know it today would not exist without Al Davis. And THAT is what should be remembered.
I did not stay up way too late or arise way to early to watch the Japanese gran Prix, but as I predicted to my pal Brett at the Firehouse a week or so ago, Vettel locked up the Championship with 4 races yet to run. He finished 3rd at Suzaka, joining Alonso and Button, the race winner, on the podium for a big celebrated. Though admittedly, Fernando Alonso did not look happy to be there….but then again, he never does. But Vettel and Button were happy as little girls. So there. The drama of the season is ended with Korea, India, Abu Dhabi, and Brazil left to run. There’s not even a bloody chance in hell for McLaren Mercedes to catch Red Bull for the constructors championship. They should make Vettel drive a super car bicycle the rest of the way.
Imagine if something like this happened in NASCAR?? What the hell would they do then?? I mean really, WHAT IF!!?? I mean, let’s suppose for a moment a guy has the NASCAR Championship locked up with races yet to run!! Bear with me here. Suspend disbelief. Believe one improbable thing before breakfast. He’s got it locked up solid. Races to run. He can stay home and make love his wife or whatever. Pop a 42 pack on the dashboard and drive to Dubuque. WHAT in WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS would NASCAR do then??!! It would collapse like a house of cards, wouldn’t it? It would be hysteria and mayhem never seen before in the history of mankind since the say time began!! Mike Helton and Brian France running around flailing and shrieking like a bunch of little girls at a slumber party, “Save us Danica Patrick!! SAVE us!!” What a disgraceful sight that would be. I’m glad that never happened. And I hope it never does.
USA 1 Honduras 0
Team USA finally broke it’s duck under Juergen Klinsmann with Clint Dempsey goal at the 36 minute mark. Not that beating Honduras 1-0 is anything to write home to Mother about, but a win is a win is win. So onward! The World Cup in Brazil is ours for the taking!
England, meanwhile, can’t seem to get one over on Montenegro. And since Wayne Rooney can’t kick a goal in Euro 2012 play, he figured he’d kick a Montenegrin instead. That got him a snappy red card to show his old man. And I’m sure it will be only a coincidence as the weeks emerge that a few punters had a bet on that. The FA of England is clearly a house of cards that have been falling like rain since 1966. But again, what’s England without a rainy day.
So that’s it for now. Another WISCONSIN WINS!! SUNDAY awaits us. Kenseth wins. Milwaukee wins. Green Bay wins! You heard it here first. And now, it’s time for a beer. Bitte ein Bit!!