He owned the Oakland Raiders. I was a massive Oakland Raider fan as a kid. Massive. I wrote my freshman english Shakespeare paper on George Blanda (a Raider player) rather than The Merchant of Venice. I got a C on the paper because it was not about The Merchant of Venice but Miss Winner couldn’t bear to give me less than a C because it was such a well-written paper. This in a way got me thinking about writing which led me to a journalism degree. I digress.
Everyone hated Al even then. But one sad day, he took my team and moved them to Los Angeles where they went from being a ‘blue collar’ team to being a ‘teardrop tattoo, what makes you think I won’t cut you, gang colors’ team. I tore down all my Raider posters of Belitnekoff, Blanda, Otto et al and while I respected the players, the Raiders as an entity were dead to me as was Al himself. Like taking candy from a baby, he bilked the well-meaning but clueless rubes who run Oakland out of millions of dollars they didn’t have and came slinking back north. You knew that whatever happened be it lawsuits, financial disagreements, scuffles with the powers that be in the NFL offices, Al would win through bullying, selfishness and intimidation. While he couldn’t always win on the field in the later years, you didn’t want to cross him in a courtroom, backroom or alley.
He was a walking, breathing monument to the non-existence of karma. But like him or not, he spent every day the last half century doing doing exactly what he wanted to do and answering to no one until he died peacefully in his home at age 82 as if to give us the finger one last time.