I was standing in the crowd, in the back by the door. There was silence, so I raised my hand.
He pointed. “You, way in the back. Go ahead.”
I pointed to myself.
He said, “Yeah you, with the funny hat.”
I cleared my throat. “Mr Davis, please don’t take this the wrong way…
“What? What’s the question?”
…But don’t you think it’s time to step down.”
There was a hush. Jaws dropped. And all eyes turned away from me toward Al.
“What? Step down? What the hell?” He looked around amazed. “Step down? You want me to…fire myself?” He blinked and craned his neck to see me. “Speak up, back there. That what you want?”
“Well,” I said, all eyes again on me. “Isn’t it about time. Raiders aren’t doing so hot, you know.”
“I’m well aware the Raiders…quit football? I’m Al Davis!” He looked around the room with a half smile. “Who is this guy? Is it time to step down?” He blinked, eyes wide open. “Next question!”
Everyone was silent. He looked back at me. “Hell no, back there. NO! I’m not quitting…not until I win another Super Bowl.”
“You think the Raiders have any chance…”
“Takes time. It’s not easy, my friend, being an NFL owner. Look, I got nothing to prove…nothing… to anybody. I’m Al Davis.”
“But the papers say that…”
“Hell with the papers!” he said. He put his dark glasses on his head. “Sports writers always giving me a bad rap. I took over this team when I was 33. Been here for ever game. Raiders will pick up. Quit? You kidding? I’m in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Me. I got this team to where it is today. What do you think the teams worth, anyway.”
He didn’t wait for my reply. He looked toward the ceiling. “Salary cap around 72 million. Team gets what? $5 million a year in TV contracts. The we’re ALWAYS among the top of the league in clothing sales. I get maybe…7% from sales at the stadium. The least expensive franchise is probably around 300 million. I’m thinking I’m worth $500 million. Some other stuff I got going, maybe $650 million, okay?”
“Maybe you could spend a few bucks on better players…” I said.
“Better Players? That what you said? You know who you’re talking to?” He shook his head, and stared out at me.
So I said, “I’ve been of the mind that it’s the players that make the team, not so much the coaches. Like Lakers coach Phil Jackson, without Michael Jordan, Shaq, and Kobe. I’m just saying.”
“That’s Basketball? I got good players. But..okay, I could may trade some…if I had more time…Hey, I got nothing to prove, kid. (Kid?) Besides, I’m still the king here. Everything goes through me.”
I was feeling brave. “Mohammad Ali, fought one too many fights, the one against Larry Holmes. Maybe stepping down now before the Raiders lose too many more…”
“Who is this kid?”
“I do a blog, Butterfield on Sports, and well…”
“Wants me to fire myself. Kids got guts. So…what if I stepped down, then what? Did you think about that?”
“It’s your legacy, Mr Davis. How will we see you in the future?”
“You all like me, right guys?” He put his head down. “Maybe I could find somebody better than Tom Cable. Wonder what Art Shell…Gruden’s down in Florida…Ronnie Lott, think he’d be a good leader? Hey it’s tough to run a team. Okay! A losing team. But I’m no loser!”
“Mike Dunleavy, Clipper coach. He decided it was time. Maybe a shake up will do the Raiders some good.” I said.
“Maybe. But I can do the shaking, all right. I don’t have to quit. I won Super Bowls with the Raiders. Remember Marcus Allen…that long run. I’ve got a winning team.”
“Had,” I said, in a low whisper.
He glared at me. “Still have, young man (Young man?). Still have…and I will win…the Raiders will win again.” He glared out at the crowd, then slumped his shoulders.
There was silence. “Anything else? You Johnny, got a question? How about you, the Sports Illustrated guy? Nothing?” He stared back at me again. ‘Okay, you in the back, what if…and I’m not saying I’ve been thinking about this…how would you fix my team..fix the Raiders? You tell me?”
Silence. And more silence.
“SO! That’s what everybody wants? Me to step down. Fire myself for my own good. That what you want?”
“Think I’m too old don’t you. Jobs too tough. So what I’m 79. Just getting started!” He tried to smile. More silence.
“Still might take my team back to LA. Maybe go up to Canada, CFL. Talk about a shake up! I’d be on the front page of every…”
“You got nothing more to prove, Mr Davis,” I said. “What more can one man do?”
“One more Super Bowl.” He thought for a second. “You are right though…not much I haven’t done…but a Super Bowl…” He looked around the room. “Like to go out on top. Hell, 79 isn’t old, right?” He raised his eyebrows. “No, it’s not…too old.” Again he glared out at us. “Okay, anything else. Gotta start looking at new recruits…maybe I can find another Blanda, or Timmy Brown, now there was a player…John Madden, I bet if I asked nicely, he’d…” Then he hit his fist against the table and walked out.
6am. On comes the radio. “And in sports, Raider’s owner Al Davis has finally thrown in the towel, He’s calling it quits. ‘Bout time, you ask me. Hell, I’d give up too if I owned the Raider’s. Crazy Al Davis. Says he’s leaving the team to his son to manage. I predict 0 and sixteen next year. Sure glad I don’t live in Oakland. Raiders are so pathetic, I bet if they played a high school team…”
It’s time, Mr Davis. There’s nothing more to prove.
That’s my take. Is it time for Al?