Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Al Davis Mausoleum

Well, how ‘bout them Raiders?

If there was ever a testimonial to the folly of major league sports being an economic catalyst for a corrupt, mismanaged urban venue… the Raiders are it.

I’ve been a Raiders fan since before I moved to Oakland in 1973. Then they moved back to where I came from. They kept their corporate offices in Oakland, however.

At that time I knew someone who worked for Davis. He told me that Al’s biggest defect is his lack of having a plan B. He sets his mind and never deviates. He also told me that he advised Davis NOT to move to LA. The LA Coliseum is in a crappy part of town (I used to work across the street), has little “official” parking (locals rent their front lawns to game-goers), and that LA is too Blasé for the Raiders to sell a sufficiency of tickets.

No matter… they moved there anyhow. Then they came back… after the city of Oakland opened up its treasury (when they had one) to Al. Then they built “Mount Davis” on top of the Coliseum (you know, a tower of bleachers on the east side… making even more empty seats at game time)… ruining the stadium for baseball. This was all done with the slobbering consent of the city fathers long after it was an established fact that multi-purpose stadiums were obsolete. We spent millions on pre-existing obsolescence.

Davis is the man so many love to hate. For decades Raider fans have loved to bad mouth Davis, even when they were winning. My reply has always been that the team wouldn’t be the Raiders without Davis. No other major league franchise can be so identified with a single individual.

In my fevered mind, NFL football is more than just a game. It is a microcosm of American life. It is a naked demonstration of corporate struggle. Recruitment, trade secrets, cults of executive personalities… you name it. Nuances of legalisms… rule changes to deal with loopholes… finding loopholes to deal with rule changes. And, most important, focus on the bottom line… the butts in the seats.

Back in the day… when the Raiders were always a team to be reckoned with… their prowess was demonstrated on a particular Monday night. It was, I think, mid third quarter. They had a small lead, say, a touchdown or so. And then they started pouring it on. Aggressive passing, brutal running… more and more points on the board. I think it was Dan Deardorf who then said: “This is the classic Raider formula. Once they get you on the ropes… they put you away.”

The Raiders and Al Davis typified a particular style of business management strategy. The Dallas Cowboys were the diametric opposite. Back then, the Cowboys had only one player who had ever been with another NFL team. Everyone else was taken in the college draft and “developed” within the corporate culture.

Meanwhile, the Raiders are the bad boys of the NFL. Al likes to “raid” other teams for potentially talented players burdened with serious problems… who he purchases at a serious discount. The execution of the strategy is summarized in what the boss tells the worker: “You’re here to do a job. We all know you’ve got problems… we’re here to work together so you can get your job done in spite of your problems.” By implication: We’re NOT here to solve your problems… we can work around them. Ask Kenny “The Snake” Stabler.

So, what about the mausoleum? I like to call the Chabot Science Center the Dick Spees Mausoleum… but Dick ain’t dead, yet. Nor is Al… but… he at least looks the part. Since the tax payers paid millions for Chabot and nobody goes there either… it might as well house the mortal remains of someone else who really screwed Oakland to the wall. It’s entirely likely that visitorship would increase should the Davis sarcophagus be displayed on the main floor.

After some collaboration with Disney/Pixar an international destination could be the result. Imagine, if you will, a lifelike robot of Al Davis… climbing out of his box, talking football, combing his hair, chewing gum, suing Oakland. Did I say “lifelike”? My bad.

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