The Oakland Raiders 25 to 20 win over the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium in Houston today was a big win for Raiders Owner Al Davis, in the wake of his passing on Saturday morning at the age of 82.
The Raiders won in a fashion that Mr. Davis is proud of: with timely defensive play in an enemy stadium, though not a really hostile one. It was a Texans crowd mindful of the lass of Al Davis, and appropriately respectful of the moment, with signs around that read “Al Davis RIP.”
But it look the Raiders Safety Michael Huff to take advantage of a bonehead play that had to make Raiders QB Jason Campbell smile. Texans Quarterback Matt Schaub threw the ball right to Huff from the five-yard-line, when he could have ran in to score.
Al Davis Is Oakland’s Man
As Oakland District Four Councilmember Libby Schaff said today, “Oakland lost an icon.” She’s right, but it’s important to add that Al Davis was an icon that Oakland created. Because no where else – no other city in the World could have given birth to the Raiders, but Oakland. A perfect match of sports team and city.
It’s not that Oakland’s “blue collar,” as some have said pointing to the city’s manufacturing and ship building past, but that it’s real – a quality that’s timeless. Oakland people are basic, not highfalutin, diverse by demand, definitely fun-loving, and very caring for those who don’t have a lot. That’ the city the Oakland Raiders represent.
Mr. Davis knew the Raiders had no business in Los Angeles, but as he said in 1979, “my city turned its back on me.” Then-Oakland Mayor Lionel Wilson and the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Board had made a deal to refurbish the Coliseum, adding 50 new luxury boxes, and upgrading the spaces that then were little more than covered seating areas that turned into water traps when the rain hit them just right.
But the NFL convinced Oakland’s elected officials and Coliseum representatives that Davis could go no where. So, Davis felt that with no one supporting him, and Oakland and NFL officials against him, the only option was a court challenge. Davis won.
I still think of what could have been had Oakland just worked to support Al Davis then, but all of that was pushed into the World of fantasy, when then-Assistant City Manager Ezra Rapport lead an incredible effort to bring the Raiders back to Oakland from Los Angeles, marking the first time in history a team left its home town, only to return to it.
Yes, we know how much it cost the City of Oakland and the County of Alameda, but the price was worth it. Moreover, “The Raiders Deal” proved Oakland had the will and the initiative to complete big projects.
Al Davis loved Oakland. He lived in Oakland and established his family there, too. But most of all, Al Davis wanted his Raiders to win in Oakland.
The Autumn Wind Still Blows
When I think of Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders, a poem called The Autumn Wind comes to mind. Created by Steve Sabol of NFL Films, and best recited by the late John Facenda, the work is etched into my memory. It goes like this:
The Autumn wind is a pirate
Blustering in from sea
With a rollicking song he sweeps along
His face is weatherbeaten
He wears a hooded sash
With a silver hat about his head
And a bristling black mustache
He growls as he storms the country
A villain big and bold
And the trees all shake and quiver and quake
As he robs them of their gold.
The Autumn wind is a Raider
Pillaging just for fun
He’ll knock you ’round and upside down
And laugh when he’s conquered and won.
And even though I gave it my best shot, Facenda still does it better…
In fact, Facenda was Mr. Davis’ favorite voice for Raiders highlight films. You only need to see this video below once to know why:
Al Davis and The Oakland Raiders – forever.