By Jake Sprecher
Did you see it? Did you see it?
Well, I’m not sure if you saw it, but on Monday the 17th of January, Al Davis, owner and withered fist of the Oakland Raiders, held what is certain to be the most bizarre and unworldly press conference in the history of sports. Now, all football fans know the lore of Al Davis; the “Just win, baby,” “glory of the Raider Nation” sis-boom-bah. By that same token, all football fans also know Al Davis to be the ultimate elderly power stroke; the decrepit Crypt Keeper reigning thunder and doom from a luxury box wheelchair, single-handedly pile-driving his team into the ground season after season by insistently operating as Dark Lord Raider, leaving Oakland the only franchise in American professional sports without a general manager.
But Monday’s antics take the cake. Forget that this event was supposedly called to introduce Hue Jackson as the Raiders new head coach; Jackson was incidental. This was Big Al’s first press conference in 16 months, and the 81-year-old New Englander did not disappoint, fumbling and mumbling his way through the proceedings like an anesthetized goat. His near nine-minute spiel on the firing of head coach Tom Cable was so protracted and confused, so painstakingly puzzled, it was as if an old man let loose from the dementia ward of a 19th century sanatorium had wandered up to the podium..
But the real story, by leaps and bounds, was his physical appearance. Al Davis sat at the press table with a face that appeared to have been trapped in a bag of diseased cats since 1954. Brandishing a forehead ripe with knotty cysts, open sores and a bleeding gash hastily held to by a dime store Band-Aid, Davis was literally something out of a horror show. In fact, when a friend first sent me links to hi-res images his face appeared so grotesque, I honestly assumed it was a well-brushed mock-up—that it couldn’t be real. But no, it was real. This man, this senile, power-tripping octogenarian, sat affront a microphone for 30 minutes with flesh rotting off his skull and tried to talk football as if it were chips and dip at Uncle Mike’s. Do you know what this means? It means that Al Davis has gone beyond every punch line, every far-flung corpse jab, and stepped into a universe of facsimile that few will ever experience. His physical relation on Monday to the living cadaver which football fans mock him as is quite possibly unparalleled in celebrity officialdom. To equal this feat, Sarah Palin would have to cut the head off a live rooster at a GOP rally; Ben Roethlisberger would have to sexually assault one of his teammates; Charlie Sheen would have to pull his penis out on The Today Show—you get the point.
Has Davis slipped so far that he’s not able to recognize blind reprehension? Or does he just not care? If the latter, Al Davis just might be the greatest man alive. If the former, he’s simply King Shit of the lunatic fringe.
Decide for yourself.