October 18, 2017

Book Review: Badasses

Decades before Mark Cuban maneuvered his Dallas Mavericks into the spotlight, Al Davis brought the Oakland Raiders to the forefront of the nation’s consciousness.

 

 

 

 

 

Read “Badasses” by Peter Richmond because:

1. Al Davis was a master architect.

Leading up to Super Bowl XI, Davis made himself scarce. His job was done. While the silver and black cult following had itself in a fervor with the nation watching, Davis was rumored to be scouting the Senior Bowl. Time magazine declared that the “Bad Boys of pro football,” were “led by Al Davis – master schemer.” John Madden was integral as the coach, but for the first time, an owner presided from a loftier post in the media. (310, Badasses)

“In order to run an efficient organization, there has to be a dictator,” Davis said. Davis studied military battles and football was not that far removed in his mind. For more than two decades, Davis’ teams did not post a losing record. The Raiders were the best in the world. Everyone else, take a number.

Davis was beloved by players on his good side. They knew him as “Al.” In Oakland the idea was, “pull up a chair. You’re family here.” Win or lose, the booze was on Davis after the game. No wonder Davis raised the Super Bowl XI trophy like a father lifts up his child. “People who knew him loved him, and he was a guy who’d absolutely go out of his way for his friends,” a friend said. (31-32)

2. In the 1970s, John Madden was a whole different animal.

Younger fans may think of John Madden as a peppy TV pitchman or as a commentator. Madden won 103 games in 10 seasons. His .763 winning percentage surpasses Vince Lombardi’s .738. Madden entered the NFL in an unparalleled era of coaching talent and didn’t flinch.

At practice, Madden sported polyester pants and chomped on a towel. During his tenure, Madden saw players ride on horses to practice and invite streakers on to the field. “The thing is you have a person, and he’s made up of a total package. You don’t just cherry-pick what you get,” Madden said. (76) Not all of the freedoms under Madden were fun and games, however. Madden was also free to explode in bursts of rage. Just another facet of the complex and captivating Raiders.

3. It takes exploits and star personalities to be “badasses,” and Davis’ teams from the seventies had plenty.

The book opens with the Raiders’ Bob Moore in a confrontation with police. Right away you know the Raiders aren’t your typical team. The suspicions you’ve had about them are probably true. In fact, the team exceeds your expectations. “There was no recession in Santa Rosa during Raider training camp,” Pete Banaszak said. “We were single-handedly boosting their economy. We’d show up two days early.”

Added Ken Stabler: It was just kids having fun and life being good. We couldn’t wait to get to training camp, to get away from wives and girlfriends, play some football, have a few drinks at night. (84-85)

That was only the beginning of the year and the tales to follow.

Sam Miller is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he worked with various teams in sports information and received the Freedom Forum – NCAA Sports Journalism Scholarship for his achievements. At the University of Illinois, Miller regularly wrote feature stories about the football team. He has also served as communications intern for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate. Prior to that, he worked as a communications intern for USA Basketball and as an associate reporter for MLB.com.