Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Friday, January 26, 2007

Happy Hour 01/26: Pick on someone your own age!

I had some time to kill before going to the movies last night, so decided to head across the street and check out some magazines at a bookstore. After pouncing on an open chair with Esquire in hand (there's a very interesting article this month about Chris Snow, the former Red Sox beat writer for the Boston Globe who's now Director of Hockey Operations for the Minnesota Wild - but okay, I was totally checking out Sienna Miller, too), I noticed a disturbing image staring at me from across the aisle.

The face was pale, hollow, and sagging. The hair was thin. The expression was almost blank, with a touch of helplessness. I had to get up (even if it meant losing that chair) to get a closer look.

It was Al Davis on the cover of this week's Sporting News.

The centerpiece of the issue profiles the worst franchise from each of the four major team sports. And TSN opted to give the cover to the Oakland Raiders' 77-year-old owner.

Why? Because it's still football season, and the NFL sells? Because Davis' hubris has made himself one of the biggest targets in pro sports? Because it just wouldn't be as funny to put Peter Angelos or Isiah Thomas on the cover? Or is it because the image of an increasingly frail old man who still insists on wearing a team logo tracksuit shockingly emphasizes the magazine's point?

Yes, the Raiders are terrible. I should applaud that because they're the only thing keeping the Detroit Lions from being the absolute worst team in the NFL. (But let's be honest, when you look at the history of the two franchises, it's not even close. As inept as they've been lately, the Raiders still have plenty of championship heritage.) Just five years removed from a Super Bowl appearance, the franchise has collapsed. The record since then is worse than Matt Millen's. And Al Davis' stubborn refusal to adjust his football philosophies is a big reason for that.

But that cover, as well as an interior photo of Davis struggling along a practice field with his walker, seems like picking on an old man to me.

The New York Times did the same thing this week, with the picture they ran from Lane Kiffin's introductory press conference. It's a lazy, reductionist way of making an argument: Look, Al Davis is old! HA! And he just hired a coach young enough to be his grandson! No wonder the Raiders stink!

The pictures are actually kind of a deceiving accompaniment to Paul Attner's article, which details several reasons the Raiders have suffered such a steep decline. Most of those mistakes can be traced to Davis' clinging to his team's glory days, when renegade players and chucking the ball down the field, along with the owner's maverick approach, made the Raiders the most infamous team in the NFL.

And now, Davis' meddlesome, egotistical micro-management has made it virtually impossible for him to hire an established, credentialed head coach. Thus, he has to settle for a fresh-faced college offensive coordinator more than happy to jump at the opportunity.

So Davis obviously deserves blame. No one's disputing that. And he probably even deserves ridicule for attempting to dress and act just as he did 20 years ago. He's the Izzy Mendelbaum of the NFL - a guy who thinks he can still take any one of these whippersnappers who dare get in his face and challenge his authority. In reality, however, his day has passed and it's long past time he step aside and yield to the present.

But criticize Davis with the facts. Even if he has made himself into a cartoon, to paste his face all over a magazine to point and snicker at an old man who doesn't know when to step aside strikes me as extremely mean-spirited. And it's just too easy.

Maybe it's hypocritical of me to be bothered by this, considering I said Bill Parcells was too old to be the Lions' general manager. But at least I made that claim about someone who could still probably kick my ass if I said it to his face.

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  • At January 27, 2007 9:12 AM, Anonymous Evan said…

    People say the Lions have no direction, but I disagree: They at least have a plan that doesn't seem to be working out as intended.

    But does Al Davis even have a plan? Does he have any idea of what he wants to see other than a real-life "The Longest Yard" on his football field in Oakland? Probably not.

  • At January 27, 2007 8:14 PM, Blogger Mini Me said…

    Please Al...step down already or die. The Raiders are a circus. I hope they trade for Michael Vick already. That would be entertaining.


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