Ray Ratto

Davis' legacy immeasurable


Davis' legacy immeasurable

Al Davis death is one of those, Oh, moments, because there is really nowhere else to go with the information. Its just an enormous is.

Davis role in the history of the National Football League and indeed all of American sports is seminal. It can and must be said that without him, the culture and landscape of football, franchise moves, league mergers and the general nature of sporting icons would be dramatically different.

In short, the depth and breadth of his importance is barely calculable.

But he was also bigger than even that, because he was also punished for becoming unfashionable in a style-over-substance world. That, too, is a lesson of his life. Even the magnificent fall, and only those who die too early get to claim the best reputations.

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He made friends and enemies in huge and equal measure. He could charm and shame, cajole and bully, show loyalty and disdain in equal measure, and in close juxtaposition to each other. He stood for diversity and color-blindness in the most important of ways by hiring it without concern for anything but its ability to succeed on his behalf. He was hero and villain and all points inbetween.

To say he was bigger than life is to cheat his legacy. He was bigger than bigger than life. Even in his declining years, when he rarely made pubic appearances, when he did, he had things to do and say that made him riveting. He might be offended at the free wisdom he could impart because he didnt like to give away a lot, but you could go to school on Al Davis.

But how exactly do we do that, now that he is gone? Who and what was he is easy, because he is one of the most talked-about figures in American sport. Even in this massively trivial age of 247 we-gotta-talk-about-something-after-the-commercial-break news, his name evoked imagery and feeling, so there wont be a lot new to say about him.

But even in passage, he will leave a large wake behind him. More than any other ownership figure, even George Steinbrenner and Jerry Jones, he was the face of his franchise, the first place you go mentally when you see the logo.

Nothing got done except through him, and the matter of succession raises questions not only of whom (he is survived by his wife Carolee and his son Mark, but he also has investors and silent partners to be considered) but how, and even where. With Los Angeles opening its arms to the NFL for the first time in 16 years, its penultimate tenant could surely cast his eyes southward with a few strokes of a pen.

The last time the Raiders left, it was a wrenching experience because it was Davis, the man who had made Oakland a sports town, who had done it, tearing a fabric right down the middle that even now shows the evidence of a bad sewing job. If they were to leave again, there would be only numbness, as though the natural force of his grip was the only thing holding the team here.

And even in the last few months, as his health declined, he materially affected not only himself but others in his world. He hated the new collective bargaining agreement, and he never truly warmed to the notion of a two-team stadium with the 49ers as partners. When he moved, the ripples moved others. In his absence, the possibility of some stagnancy is considerable because, after all, Al was the Raiders and the Raiders were Al.

Giants leave us, and Davis was that. His time astride his world was long (48 years in the NFL alone) and often contentious. He was, as are all men unafraid of turmoil, someone who made peoples conversations diminish in volume and tone. His legacy, which seems obvious to cite, is not yet fully written.

The family he leaves behind now deals with its hub removed. A sports organization that never functioned without him now figures out how to do so on Day 1. A city that was made more vibrant by his appearance now faces the possibility that one more of its identifying characteristics may be on the wing again.

And for all the sober-faced encomiums to him on the occasion of his death delivered by people who disliked and perhaps even hated him in life, this much remains the fact.

Al Davis was that giant. His size and stature in American sport will not be seen again. Even the biggest owners in sport now did not turn two leagues into one, or revolutionize franchise location rights, or turn city governments into jelly-legged saps at the mere mention of his name. He beat Pete Rozelle, Paul Tagliabue had nothing on him, and Roger Goodell was a mere child.

And if he stayed too long to remain cool, that is on those who think that such things matter. Al Davis defined an epoch, and anything at which he was not the first, he was the most grandiose practitioner.

Al Davis Mattered, with a capital M. In his absence, he matters still, even dead. Let the users of the new definitions of fame and buzz and cool and needle-moving grapple with the size of that for awhile.

Celtics are the rivals Warriors fans need

Celtics are the rivals Warriors fans need

You don’t think you needed this game to go this way, but you did, and you do.

The Golden State Warriors spat out a 17-point lead and lost, 92-88, in Boston Thursday night, in a game that was taut if not particularly elegant, and in a game that elevated the Celtics to a place that makes them the new heir apparent to the heir apparent.

The Celtics have been a difficult out for the Warriors during the Brad Stevens Era, losing six of nine but only being blown out twice, and Thursday was not one of those nights. The box score will tell you the shooting and rebounding problems, but the Warriors had that lead and didn’t hold it. Or, to be accurate, the Celtics had that deficit and refused to let it destroy them.

Which is exactly the kind of team you, the fully licensed Warrior fan, want to watch play your team in the NBA Finals. You want to see them genuinely challenged, forced to win outside their comfort zone, induced to show their greatness in the highest of high leverage situations.

At least we think that’s what you want. Maybe you prefer blowouts so you can drink and go to the bathroom without care or fear. After all, the Warriors have taught the area the true meaning of front-running by being in front so often.

But the Celtics play a level of defense typically reserved for the San Antonio Spurs, and yes, the Warriors. They have a spiky exoskeleton that the acquisition of Kyrie Irving has actually enhanced, and Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum give them a gifted precocity that fits well with veterans like Al Horford and Marcus Morris, and Boston’s overall youth (they are fifth youngest, while Golden State is third-oldest) ought to make them a more difficult conundrum than Cleveland or any other team in either conference.

They are not yet the superior team; that remains to be proven, and betting against the Warriors requires a level of irrational bravery left only for the truly self-destructive.

But they are, as we sit this evening, the team the Warriors will have to work hardest to finish, because on a night when they had the chance to do so, they didn’t. In other words, the fight for a third ring still goes through Oakland, but it looks more and more like a one-stop through Boston.

And as much as you may hate thinking about it, you’ll almost certainly remember, and savor, a Celtics-Warriors final more than another round of Cavs-on-the-half-shell.

Three reasons Draymond Green is the perfect college professor


Three reasons Draymond Green is the perfect college professor

Programming note: Warriors-Celtics coverage starts today at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming live right here 

Draymond Green spoke to a group of students at Harvard Thursday on the subject of leadership, and if you find that incongruous, shame on you.
I mean, who else would you want as a college professor?
Green has led, and been led. He has learned, and he has taught. He has certainly lectured, as any teammate, official and media member will testify. He’d be a hell of a teacher, and the subject almost doesn’t matter.
For one, homework would be different, as in I’d bet there would be no written work. I don’t see Prof. Day-Day poring over essays about the Industrial Revolution, M-theory or pre-Raphaelite art. Not even the history of Basketball-Reference.com.

For two, having tenured faculty audit his classes may find his choice of rhetoric a little strident, as in “What the ---- were you thinking, dude?” is not typically approved instructional methodology.
And three, nobody would get a grade. Green would mark every exam with a “35,” as in his draft position, and besides, the exams would be students arguing with each other over whether that was a foul or a no-call, and who pulled the better face when the call was made. He’d give either an approving nod or give the loser a second technical foul and kick him or her out of class.
But it would be a hell of a class. Not at Harvard, of course, because Green probably would want to teach a school that could better use his brand of wisdom, and Harvard kids already have a healthy lead off third base. He’d want his students to make Harvard students cry, you can just tell.
But wouldn’t he look perfectly Draymond in a cap and gown on graduation day, pulling a bottle out of his sleeve to make the valedictory speeches less painful. “Damn, dude,” you could hear him yell. “Peaking?”