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SLICK by Mark Ribowsky


The Silver-and-Black Life of Al Davis

by Mark Ribowsky

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-02-602500-0
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

 Lengthy, solid, revealing biography of the owner of the L.A. Raiders--and a knowledgeable history of football's evolution from the Sixties onward, on and off the field. Portrayed by Ribowsky (He's a Rebel, 1988) as a pretend- athlete who never made the teams but tenaciously sought the company of real jocks, Davis, through his blue-collar Raiders (``oddities and irregulars, factory seconds and seeming chain gang escapees'') became an outlaw force in football. Ribowsky covers Davis's story thoroughly, especially the 1982 battle with Commissioner Pete Rozelle over Davis's right to move the team from Oakland to L.A. Leading up to that, Ribowsky details the peculiarly nasty Raider style that developed as Davis welded hard-case nonconformists into victorious Super Bowl teams, and also delivers a lively account of the bombs-away style that has unnerved Raider opponents. Davis emerges as chutzpah incarnate in his independent rise from a well-to-do Jewish background to successful coach to preeminence in the sport. Here, as the driven, indefatigable Raider-mensch scouts for his psychopath berserkers, he guts business opponents along the way without mercy, retaining a cadre of loyalists in a sea of enemies. But Davis's relationships with his players, blacks included, have been as close as can be found in the sport. Doused after a victory, ``[Davis] wore the wet clothes all the way home,'' giggles one player. The enemies list is long, though, once headed by former Raiders-owner Wayne Valley, who gave Davis his biggest breaks: At Valley's funeral, ``The police were watching for him,'' says wife Gladys Valley. ``They had orders to throw him out.'' ``You don't want Al Davis mad at you,'' says Gene Upshaw, and Ribowsky's sometimes clunky sentences do not obscure his forceful underscoring of that message. (Two eight-page photo inserts--not seen.)