CBS 5 Sports Director Dennis O’Donnell hosts “Gameday” every Sunday night at 11:30pm and offers his unique sports analysis here.
OAKLAND (CBS 5) – In 1994, just before the Raiders moved back to Oakland, I was working as a producer for KRON-TV and set up an interview with Al Davis at the team’s headquarters in El Segundo. The meeting was months in the making and would take place with Gary Radnich and Al Davis in his office. Upon our arrival we were ushered into his office. Davis wasn’t there yet – it was probably a good thing that he didn’t see our expressions as we glanced around the room and saw everything in silver and black. It was jaw-dropping. The carpet, the walls, the desk, the couch, even the pens were silver and black. I had heard the expression that Al Davis bled silver and black and now I actually believed it.
After setting up the camera equipment (I had two cameramen because, well, Mr Davis doesn’t do these very often), the Raiders’ Managing General Partner walked in. In public settings, such as news conferences, Davis presented himself as an intimidating figure who was, at times, many times, condescending to the media, including me. They’re the enemy. There was an office in El Segundo in which a Raiders PR guy showed me files that were kept on writers’ stories. I think Glenn Dickey had the biggest file.
But in this setting, I was taken back by his kindness and his gentlemanly manner. The façade of bravado and intimidation was gone. It was an Al Davis I had never seen and would never see again. One that, perhaps, only football people or friends in his inner circle got to see. Oh sure, he had a legal assistant sit down and take notes of the interview, but aside from that I was shocked at his demeanor. And for an half hour or so we sat and listened to Davis tell his story. I recall, at the time, how lucky I was to be in that room. Gary wasn’t very aggressive with the interview and I remember that too. Maybe that’s part of the reason Al arranged for a limousine to whisk him away to Newport Beach where his family was spending the weekend.
Back at KRON I wrote the story and we edited it as part of a sports special. I sent a copy to Davis with a thank you note. He never responded and I’d later heard that he didn’t think it was long enough. But as we say in TV, keep ‘em wanting more.
See you on TV.