Atlanta, Georgia – The Oakland Raiders’ Al Davis and Apple’s Steve Jobs. That the San Francisco Bay Area could lose two icons (two “Raiders,” if you will) in three days, should be noted. Al Davis, who died this morning at 82 years old, was the Owner of The Oakland Raiders and like Steve Jobs, who passed Wednesday at 56 years old, had not just an affinity for wearing black, but a talent for marketing and branding that formed an indelible image for the Raiders.
Like Jobs, Al Davis, or Mr. Davis, formed an organization that was more gang than business. The Raiders, like Apple, have a set of norms, expectations, and most especially, a look. And both organizations were built around two single, powerful Bay Area personalities.
But what’s most important here is Al Davis and Steve Jobs were part of the fabric of great, wonderful, iconic, and interesting people who lived in the Bay Area, and in Mr. Davis’ case, Oakland. Where I only have one story of meeting Steve Jobs, I have a number of stories about Mr. Davis, as do a number of Oaklanders. As much as Al Davis is part of what I call the SF Bay Area family, he’s more a part of the Oakland family.
For much of my life, it was known where Al and Carol Davis lived in Oakland. And at the old, now closed, Kings X Bar on Piedmont and Pleasant Valley, the joke used to be if you had a beef with Mr. Davis, just drive up the hill and knock on his door. Mr. Davis maintained that Oakland residence even when he moved the team to Los Angeles in 1983.
When the Raiders returned in 1995, and after a spirited effort by the City of Oakland (and in particular by then-Assistant City Manager Ezra Rapport) that’s still not celebrated because this city of mine chooses to look at the glass as half-empty too much of the time, it was like a home coming. In fact, it was a home coming. Oakland without the Raiders was like a Fender guitar without two of its strings. The note was always sour, and something was always missing. No more.
At that time of 1993 I was a columnist for The Montclarion, a local paper that serves the Oakland Hills and was then owned by Warren “Chip” Brown. It was my first news job, and I was given a wide canvas to work from. Thanks to then-Peerless Coffee boss and Oakland Coliseum Chairman George Vukasin, of all the news people in the room, I was able to ask the first question to open the press conference for what was called The Return Of The Raiders to Oakland.
Later that great day at the Coliseum, I sat with the Oakland Tribune’s Monte Poole, Scott Osler, then of The San Francisco Examiner, and now of the San Francisco Chronicle, and others at a make-shift round table talk, and listened to Mr. Davis inform us about the deal that was crafted to bring the Raiders back to Oakland, and his business relationship with Ezra (or as Davis said “Ezzz RaHHH”) and trust in what he was doing – at the time. But it was clear that Mr. Davis was happy to be back in Oakland, and Oakland was happy to have him. (And I look forward to what Monte and Scott, and also Glen Dickey, have to say about the passing of Mr. Davis.)
The Super Bowl Oakland Bid
In 1999 I headed the Oakland Super Bowl XXXIX Bidding Committee, and worked to try and get the 2005 Super Bowl to Oakland – we lost to Jacksonville. At the time, I worked in the middle of legal turmoil between the Raiders, the City of Oakland, and the National Football League. During that time the Raiders and Davis were both my friends and my enemies. My friends by choice and by function, and my enemies not by my choice, but by where I sat in representing the City of Oakland.
That was a tough thing to deal with. But, I have to say, everyone with the Raiders was nice to me on a personal level, and that includes Mr. Davis, who took time to shake my hand at the NFL Owners meeting in Chicago in 2000. He didn’t say much at all except “hello” but considering the legal climate of the time, it was better than I had a right to expect. The point is, Mr. Davis was never as bad as his image. Indeed, he was actually a nice person.
Mr. Davis just wanted to win. Davis will be tearfully missed, but it’s Raiders CEO Amy Trask’s time now. Next to Mr. Davis, she’s the one who embodies the spirit of the Oakland Raiders.
Stay tuned. (If I were in Oakland, I’d pick up my camcorder and talk with people. Alas.)