Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Carson Palmer, FTW

I found out from Dan via text message about an hour ago. Yes, we're all excited here. Ray Ratto has an interesting first take on the trade:
But what it absolutely means is this: Hue Jackson is now the general manager of the Oakland Raiders, the living modern-day embodiment of the man who hired him. He went from offensive coordinator to head coach to the master of the football operations department in nine months, a rise so meteoric that even Al in the afterlife must find that a bit breathtaking.
And then my favorite line:
Even Joseph Stalin cooled his heels for two years before throwing his elbows around.
We'll have more reactions as they come in. But I'll tell you what, Al loved players from USC, and he loved Heisman Trophy winners. It's on.

Rick Reilly, all-time great chickenshit

This is old, I know. But I work, and there's a baby in the house and I've also been a little busy worrying about who will back up Kyle Boller now that Jason Campbell's collar bone is broken.

But thank Christ for Rick Reilly, who took it upon himself last week to reflect HONESTLY on the legacy of Al Davis.

You know how I know how I know Reilly's column is lazy? Because he quotes 8 outside sources in his column and links to zero of them. That's this many:

You get the idea. Anyway, he sets up a straw man, the idea that everyone who has written an obit about Davis glossed over the darker areas.
As you pass the casket at Maori funerals in New Zealand, you are encouraged to speak frankly to the dead man, sometimes even mentioning his faults, right out loud.
With all due respect to his life and legacy, I think we need a funeral like that for recently departed Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis -- a man I covered since I was 25.
It's white of him to educate us about the religious practices of the Maori. Since he doesn't link to where he got this information, I googled "Maori funeral rites and got this from wikipedia:
  • Tangihanga or funeral rites may take two or three days. The deceased lies in state, usually in an open coffin flanked by female relatives dressed in black, their heads sometimes wreathed in kawakawa leaves, who take few and short breaks. During the day, visitors come, sometimes from great distances despite only a distant relationship, to address the deceased. They may speak frankly of his or her faults as well as virtues, but singing and joking are also appropriate. Free expression of grief by both men and women is encouraged. Traditional beliefs may be invoked, and the deceased told to return to the ancestral homeland, Hawaiki, by way of te rerenga wairua, the spirits' journey. The close kin or kiri mate ("dead skin") may not speak. On the last night, the pō whakamutunga (night of ending), the mourners hold a vigil and at sunrise the coffin is closed, before a church or marae funeral service and/or graveside interment ceremony, invariably Christian. It is traditional for mourners to wash their hands in water and sprinkle some on their heads before leaving a cemetery. After the burial rites are completed, a feast is traditionally served. Mourners are expected to provide koha or gifts towards the meal. After the burial, the home of the deceased and the place they died are ritually cleansed with karakia (prayers or incantations) and desanctified with food and drink, in a ceremony called takahi whare, trampling the house. That night, the pō whakangahau (night of entertainment) is a night of relaxation and rest. The widow or widower is not left alone for several nights following.
  • During the following year, the kinfolk of a prominent deceased person will visit other marae, "bringing the death" (kawe mate) to them. They carry pictures of the person on to the marae.
  • Unveilings of headstones (hura kōwhatu) are usually held about a year after a death, often on a public holiday to accommodate visitors who could not get to the tangihanga. The dead are remembered and more grief expressed.
Notice he left out the parts about the graveside internment ceremony (invariably Christian, totally appropriate for a recently-deceased Jew like Al Davis). This is instructive, because he spends the rest of the column destroying his straw man with Honesty by cherry-picking quotes from obituaries. Let's take a look at just one of those, "Raiders' Al Davis, sport's ultimate bad guy, will be missed" a 9-year old pre-Superbowl column by Bill Plaschke (thanks again, google). 

Actually, take a minute or two and read the whole column. It's a good lesson in how to write a balanced, nuanced take on a complicated man's life. Anyway, his column alternates something good with something not-so-good. Let's take a look at the passage Reilly quotes:
It would be wonderful if today could be a tribute to the brains behind the AFL-NFL merger, the curator of the downfield passing game, the first football executive to hire both a Latino and an African American head coach, the only owner whose successor probably will be a woman.
Notice first what he left off all the non-bolded text. But anyway, the next sentence:
But it's hard to hand over your heart to a guy who used to make his equipment man fall to his knees and clean his shoes when he entered the locker room.
Wait, that sounds familiar. Where have I read that before? Oh, unattributed, in Rick Reilly's HONEST Maori eulogy.
Yet after practices, Davis would routinely throw a towel down on the locker room floor and wait for somebody to clean his shoes. No please, no thank you. Just do it, baby. And grown men would.

Looking at Plashcke's obituary now, I'd like to quote at length another passage.

In the end, this intimidation changed a league, broke down barriers and created a unique sports culture, a group simply known as Raider Fan. This is a name given to any of thousands of spectators — many from Los Angeles — who embrace the sort of havoc in the stands that Davis' team attempts on the field.
What will happen to Raider Fan now? What if Davis' heirs sell the team to someone who will attempt to move them back to Los Angeles' new NFL stadium?
For that to happen, the team must first change the silver and black colors that are so popular among gang members. And second, well, they might as well change the name.
Contrast this with Reilly's Maori Funeral Address.

Yes, Al Davis "was what all Raiders fans identified with" (SBNation.com).
And the rest of the league has had to live with them ever since. A Raiders jersey or jacket became gang uniform in Oakland and L.A. "The Black Hole" at Oakland games is about as disgusting a place as you can find. YouTube is lousy with guys in Raiders jerseys throwing haymakers. Now, there's talk that Davis' oldest son, Mark, may sell the Raiders to Philip Anschutz, who would move the team to Los Angeles. After what happened at Dodgers Stadium this year, you want to bring a thug element that would make Dodgers fans look like Our Gang? Better barricade I-5.
I'm not even going to address the racial coding of "gang uniform" and "thug element." It's too easy and once you bring it up, people get all defensive, because no white person anywhere in the United States is ever racist. And never mind that youtube is also lousy with Eagles fans and Broncos fans and Jets fans throwing haymakers at people. So let's just look at the Plaschke quote next to the Reilly quote and draw our own conclusions.

Oh fuck it. I'd accuse Reilly of plagiarism but I honestly don't think he's smart enough to plagiarize. What he is is Lazy. And chickenshit. He could have written a column where he just flat-out called Al Davis an asshole. Like Jeremy Stahl in Slate's "Al Davis, all-time great asshole."

But Reilly doesn't have the balls. So he plays anthropologist, and libels a bunch fans, and takes cheap shots.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Flores on Al

What Tom Flores had to say about Al's passing is about exactly what I felt when I heard the news this morning:

"The fact that he passed was not surprising but the fact that he passed was shocking."

The rest of his comments are here.

I'm not in any way demeaning the unbeautiful women.

Tim Kawakami relays one of the greatest Al Davis quotes I've ever read: 

"I want to win. Obviously in life, I like certain things. I like beautiful women more than unbeautiful women. I'm not in any way demeaning the unbeautiful women."


Monte Poole:

Never was there a more iconic and enduring symbol of a business. Not Jack LaLanne, not Don King, not Miles Davis, not Oprah Winfrey, not Steve Jobs. Not George Halas or Bill Walsh or Bob Knight. Not even Davis' good friend, George Steinbrenner.
For Al not only represented his team but dressed the part. He wore his suits and sweatsuits like a shield, never deviating from black or white and silver — the colors of his team. It was a matter of mutual identity, Al and the Raiders, the Raiders and Al. He spoke as a Raider, gestured as a Raider and fought every battle with the ferocity of a Raider.

Someday (unless America becomes a dystopia), it will be hundreds of years old. Someday, it will be ancient. And when that moment is reached, the so-called “modern era” will be defined as starting today. It will begin with the death of Al Davis. He was the final survivor of pro football’s seminal period; he designed the way aggressive teams play, he was the heart of the AFL, and he was the last man to carry the total burden of a team for his entire adult life. He was the Raiders. That’s a cliché, but it’s absolutely true. There was no one else. In his final years, Davis looked strange. He looked like a skeleton. He looked a little like the logo on the Raiders' helmets (all he needed was the eye patch and the knife). He physically became what he emotionally was. And that will never happen again. From here on out, it’s just football.
Davis, who died Saturday, wasn't an only-in-America success story. He was an especially-in-America success story, with his abiding appreciation of hard work, wealth, confrontation and litigation. He loved victory, mystery and standing on the outside looking in.
He inspired awe, disdain, blind loyalty, blind rage, imitators, sycophants, friends and enemies. He was so much to so many for so long that he defies a complete and fitting eulogy.
He would have liked that.
Gwen Knapp:
Yet Saturday's news of his death at age 82 defied a persistent core belief: that somehow, Al Davis would outlive us all. He was too irascible, stubborn and confounding to yield his place on Earth.
One might even say that he was too mean to die, if we weren't forbidden to malign the recently departed, or if the statement were entirely true.
The taboo doesn't matter here. Davis stomped on convention and decorum in every way possible, including some that made the NFL and this country an infinitely better place.


Richard Seymour:

Hue Jackson:

Shane Lechler:

Al Davis: 1929-2011

We'll update this with reactions and obituaries as the come in.