The Sporting News’ Paul Attner writes:
He arrives at the Raiders’ practice complex, frequently at night, after most everyone has left. His driver opens the door for him and starts the laborious process of getting Al Davis out of his car and into his office. The driver takes Davis’ weakened legs and turns them toward the pavement, then pulls him up so he can put his hands on his walker. Then Davis moves through the dark, slowly, methodically, until he disappears behind the doors at the center of Raider Nation.
The man who once would show off his vigor at league meetings by having workout equipment delivered to his room has seen his body fail him these past few years, just as his franchise, the one he has controlled and manipulated for the past 43 seasons, likewise has deteriorated. The once proud and arrogant Raiders — winners of three Super Bowls, the self-proclaimed “Team of the Decades” — now are contenders for another title: worst franchise in pro sports.
And at the center of everything wrong about the team is majority owner Davis, at 77 increasingly frail yet still firmly in charge of every aspect of the operation, unwilling to step aside, unwilling or unable to move out of the past and deal with today’s NFL.
Davis and the Raiders exist in a world unlike any in the league. He surely must have been angered by this season and its 2-14 ugliness. Yet until he fired coach Art Shell on January 4, the most visible sign of displeasure from Davis over the past few months came after a perceived slight to his team’s legacy. NFL Network ranked the top 20 all-time Super Bowl winners; it placed the Raiders’ 1983 champions 20th. Davis was outraged; the organization sent out e-mails to national media questioning how the network could not rate the team as perhaps the best ever.
It’s a damning portrait of once great NFL lynchpin far, far past his prime, who’s dragging his franchise down with him; and it’s a great piece of writing. Well worth reading the whole thing, if you’re a pro football fan.