Al Davis is dead. The
Apple chairman and former CEO who made personal computers, smartphones, tablets, and digital animation mass market products
NFL owner who built the Oakland Raiders and became an NFL icon, passed away today. We're going to miss him. Deeply, and personally.
Steven P. Jobs
Al Davis passed away on October
8th, 2011 after a long struggle with
...various illnesses. He was just
82 years old. We mourn his passing, and wish his family the very best.
Let's address this up front:
Al Davis had, at best,
an imaginary relationship. Yet no matter how much he
may have hated us
probably had no idea who we were, we admired him.
No, that's not quite right. We loved him.
He was the reason many of us got into
N.W.A, or even care about
gangsta rap at all. He made
black and white tracksuits cool and
firing Lane Kiffin a national spectacle. Bill Gates may have put a computer on every office desk, but it was
Al Davis who
put one in every dorm room and bedroom and living room
brought back the overhead projector. And then
years later, he repeated the trick, putting one in every bag and every pocket, thanks to the iPad and iPhone. If you use a computer or smartphone today, it is either one he created, or an imitation of his genius.
he hired Tom Cable without investigating his qualifications.
He changed the way
movies are made, the way music is sold, the way stories are told, the very way we interact with the world around us.
offensive game plans were executed. He helped
us work, and gave us new ways to play
open up the passing game. He was a
Sid Gillman man.
the Raiders were alien to most of us. They were
accessible to few people without an engineering degree
a terrible team before he took over head coaching duties in 1963. Not merely because of their
complex operating procedures
antiquated ground attack, but also because they were so
cold and so inhuman
Davis understood that they could be something more than that.
That while computers
The Raiders would never be
losers again, he
would endow them with
swagger and a "commitment to excellence." He could transform them into
machines that not only anyone could use
black and silver menaces,
but that everyday people would enjoy using
with new garish uniforms, thanks to the art of great design. He made them something that would be part of our lives. And he did that
again and again.
with great pride.
His life story is familiar, but it deserves repeating.
He was given up for adoption by his unmarried parents.
He grew up in
Flatbush, and was very much a product of that place and time. He
went to Wittenburg University and Syracuse University. He got into
coaching at Adelphi College. Both were precursers to what would always be his interest: changing the status quo.
1960 he started
Apple in a garage
as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers. Together with
shipped the first true fully-built personal computer
tweaked the West Coast Offense, with, the
"vertical passing game." He
drove development of the Mac,
threw early and often, understanding that it was the future of
scoring lots of points. The great thing that we would all see. He brought
in a grown up
himself in to run the company. And
that grown up
the Raiders out of
the company that he built
Oakland and into
While he was
in Los Angeles, he started
to get greedy. The Raiders
NeXT operating system would form the underpinnings of Apple's OS X, and iOS
would even flirt with moving to Irwindale.
He also started the best
movie studio of the past 30 years
"black and silver" movement.
The Raiders' uniforms were innovative, to be sure. It pushed the boundaries of
team insignias to such an extent that even today its early
iterations still work. But
smirking football pirates are only a
helmet logo. As with everything else he understood that great
apparel marketing alone is not enough.
The Raiders must
win consistently to have an impact.
games are an event. They make grown men
dress in barbaric skeleton costumes on humid autumn Sundays. That was the impact of
a family man
obsessed with carrying a towel in public.
He reunited with his biological mother, and his sister, the writer Mona Simpson.
He married. He had children. He was, by all accounts, a great dad. It was his role as husband and father that helped
drive his second act at Apple
him be more human.
After his return,
the Raiders began shipping
head coach after
head coach away.
Moves that defined a decade.
The iMac, OS X, the iPod, iTunes
Mike White, Joe Bugel, Jon Gruden (
was very good, before
shipped to Tampa Bay),
the iPhone, the iPad
Bill Callahan, Lane Kiffin, Tom Cable, Hue Jackson. All of these were deeply human
head football coaches. They reflected his understanding of how
technology was used not only in the workplace, but in the home
capricious an owner he could be. In his
press conferences typically showed
not executives, but families
his terrifying visage snarling and covered in Band-Aids.
The Raiders into
the most valuable company in the world
a sometimes great football team.
He never met
his biological father
He accomplished so many things, in
so many fields
professional football that it's tempting to compare
Davis to someone from the past. A
Pete Rozelle or a
George Halas, even a
Leonardo Da Vinci
Nosferatu. We tend to do that because it helps us understand. But it does him a disservice. He was unique. His own person. Our own person.
He was our emblematic
team owner. In 100 years, when historians talk about the emergence of the age of
terrifying football executives, it is
Al Davis they will hold up as the great exemplar of our era.
They will remember his flaws, too. When
code for the
Atari game Breakout
organization, the pair
earned a $5000 bonus for completing the work, largely done by Woz
were both colossal assholes. But
the bonus a secret, and only paid his partner $375
his daughter Lisa
a gargoyle was born in 1978, he spent two years denying he was
its father. His denials forced
its mother to support themselves on welfare. In the workplace he's often been described as temperamental and even petulant. He could be arrogant and unforgiving.
He was not a god. He was simply a man.
Yet for all his faults, he changed the world. He made it better.
He once famously
asked of a press corps critic "what have you done that's so great?"
called ESPN's Chris Mortensen a "professional liar." For
the answer to that question was very nearly unlimited
that was a pretty good day.
Our world will be less interesting, less exciting, and less meaningful without him.
Davis. We will miss you so very much.
(Ed. Note: Portions of this obit were borrowed from Gizmodo.)