Al Davis’ legacy lives through friends and enemies

by Monte Poole, Bay Area News Group

He had as many loyal friends as he had sworn enemies, though plenty on both sides never met him.

Just as he loved and hated with an intensity that could cut glass, he too was adored and detested with a passion that could come only from the bottom of the heart.

Al Davis, the iconic Raiders boss who died early Saturday morning at 82, was an amalgam of many great and historic figures yet somehow an American original. Possessing a unique persona — charming yet abrasive, defiant yet compromising, ruthless yet compassionate — he managed to be exceedingly complex yet utterly simple, unforgiving as cold steel and sensitive as doctor’s cotton.

He will be forever regarded as one of the most fascinating figures in the history of athletics, unquestionably the most compelling in the comprehensive book of Bay Area sports, all without personally engaging in actual competition.

Quite a feat, indeed, and it only begins to measure the magnitude of Al, who devoted his life to the Raiders, making sure his fingerprints and footprints touched every component.

Sport is filled with a vast array of characters, from the regal and distinctive, to the bellicose and occasionally unhinged. Al was all that and more. Feared and followed, respected and despised and admired and always — always — worthy of observation, he lived for the ceaseless and methodical pursuit of all he visualized.

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