My biggest punch line is gone.
Goodbye, Al Davis, we're going to miss you.
Davis died today at the age of 82 at his home, presumably with his middle finger still pointed at the NFL and at Roger Goodell.
If you were hoping for a rosebud moment, keep hoping. Davis wouldn't give Goodell the pleasure.
That's exactly why Davis was good for the game, of course. Unlike today's NFL, replete with waves upon waves of lawyers, and a commissioner whose plastic emotions--whether they're reserved for concussions or for passionate fans--are as transparent as bottled water, Davis was a football guy first.
He wore his emotions on his jumpsuit.
Davis used lawyers, but only because he knew that punching Goodell in the face would result in wounds that would heal.
Today and tomorrow (and, let's face it, for the rest of the season), you'll be hearing everyone from the Raiders to a can of Raid calling Al Davis a legend, a pioneer, and an innovator. All this hyperbole is true in Davis' case. Yet most men are infinitely more complex than this, and Davis was no exception.
Davis was the ultimate contradiction.
He was loyal yet wavering as he cycled through head coaches like laundry.
He brought progress yet regressed consistently. He promoted Art Shell and was a proponent in the movement for black head coaches. Later, we found out he hated black athletes from Notre Dame because they used their education instead of their athletic skills.
He was compassionate yet merciless. His doting over his sick wife and paying for former Raiders' medical expenses are well known. At the same time, he called Marcus Allen a "cancer."
He was thoughtful yet petty. One moment he could run down the league's strategic changes (he forged many of them) from decade to decade, while quibbling with Mike Shanahan (and others) over pocket change.
He was a fallen angel and demon; a victim and perpetrator; war and peace.
The list could go on and on.
If the true measure of a man is what he left behind in the hearts and minds of others, than Davis was like the rest of us--complicated.