Al was no Athlete..

Hey, Summer Campers!

In the month premiering the autumn season, I thought I’d write a couple sports-related Celebrities at Summer Camp posts. In the first week of October, I wrote about legendary sports writer, Seth Davis. I picked another Davis for the post today—we’re talking about Al Davis, the previous coach of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders. The principal owner and general manager spanning 39 years, Al certainly left a piece of himself in this football team.
Al Davis sure knew how to get what he wanted.
No longer with us, Al lived a long, full life—starting all the way back to the beginning. He was born on the Fourth of July in Brockton, Massachusetts, 1929. Attending Camp Roosevelt in New York, he spent his summer days making friends and putting together basketball games. And, despite his strong affiliation with the world of football today, at that age, he was passionate about basketball.

His desire to play basketball followed him into his high school days when he met Coach Al Badain from Erasmus Hall High School. Turns out, despite his love for the game, Al just wasn’t very good at basketball. Coach Badain barely played him and, instead, Al spent a lot of time on the bench, studying Badain’s coaching technique.

Though he continuously proved himself to be unimpressive as an athlete throughout his college days at both Wittenburg College in Ohio as well as Syracuse Univ., he started gaining lots of interest in the strategy in football. He’d hang out on the football field during practice drills and never missed a game. He even took a couple academic courses for football strategy—classes only ever attended by football players.

To make up for his athletic inability, Al discovered an admittedly arrogant and brash side of his personality that he effectively used to aid his climb to a coaching career in a sport that he had no experience playing. It’s kind of like the opposite of charm—but Al made it work for himself. After graduation, he went for a position on a college football coaching staff.

After a personal meeting with the president of  Hofstra University, he had the position. With his foot in the door and coaching experience, he set his sights on the professional world next. Al struck after the worst year of a team’s history—Oakland Raiders in 1962. They lost their first 13 games and Al gladly stepped in to replace Red Conkright as head coach.

His motto for the team became “Just win, baby” and under his passionate coaching, the Raiders became one of the most successful teams in the entire league. He remained on the coaching staff far into his old age. Al passed away five years ago. Al did what he loved. What will you do? As always, thanks for reading!

- John

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