Raiders owner Mark Davis stepped out of the shadow of his legendary father to accomplish the one thing Al Davis couldn’t by securing a permanent, exclusive home for the iconic franchise.
To take the next step as an elite owner in the NFL, Mark Davis must now do the one thing his father became synonymous with and just win.
That’s the conclusion of a “Real Sports” profile on Mark Davis, which will debut Tuesday night on HBO and HBO Max.
“I spent years trying to get him to do this story because I’ve always found him fascinating, and he’s never really talked about his dad at all. He’s never really done anything long form like this,” correspondent Andrea Kremer told the Review-Journal on Monday. “I just find him to be a very interesting person.”
The feature of course delves into the idiosyncrasies of the eccentric owner, from the hair to the love of chain Chinese food.
Davis has heard it all before and laughed it off in typical fashion while also channeling Peter Pan.
“People ask where I grew up and I say I haven’t,” he said. “I never want to. What I say is I was retired the first 50 years of my life. Now I have a job.”
Where the profile shines is in exploring how he has changed his perception among his fellow owners from the butt of the joke to a respected voice.
“The NFL ownership club is unique,” Kremer said. “You know the owners more than you do in other sports, but he’s not really the first one you think of. Mark embraces that, but they have respect for him because of what he did. He’s obviously making money for himself and the Raiders, but in turn that makes money for them too.”
In the “Real Sports” profile, coach Jon Gruden voiced his support for the boss but added he didn’t think the original perception of Mark Davis was ever fair.
“I think that’s a bunch of (expletive),” he said. “If you know Mark Davis, you like Mark Davis. And if you don’t, you can have your own opinion.
“Sorry he wasn’t as experienced as some of the other owners, but he got here and he learned fast. He probably took some heat from some of those people, but he kept swinging and kept digging and kept producing and look where we are now.”
The overriding theme of the profile gets back to the relationship between Davis and his father.
It explores the time Al Davis fired his son as a ballboy at age 14 for incorrectly spotting the ball during training camp and then talking back when he was corrected. Kremer also delves into how the football obsession of the elder Davis impacted the rearing of his son.
Mark Davis was rarely front and center in the way other sons of prominent owners were over the years, though he says much of it was by choice.
“I was allowed to be around anytime I wanted,” he said in the profile. “I knew what his dream was and that was to build the greatest organization in sports. I felt it would be selfish of me to actually expect him to teach me along the way.”
Still, Mark Davis carried on his dad’s legacy as a renegade by not only landing a favorable stadium deal that was financially beneficial to himself, the organization and the league, but doing it in a city that was once uncomfortable to even mention in NFL circles.
“I hope he would be very, very happy and proud,” Mark Davis said of setting up a capital of Raider Nation in southern Nevada and Allegiant Stadium. “But they won. We have to win. That’s where I have to get it right.”
While the goals are the same, Mark Davis certainly did it his own way. He has figured out a way to build bridges around the league instead of seeking out confrontation.
“He fought a lot of battles, and he was right in the battles he fought,” Mark Davis said of his father. “But sometimes you win the battles, but lose the war.
“I felt maybe it’s a little easier to get things done with sugar rather than salt. I felt like I wanted to start on a clean slate with the NFL and the other owners. I thought it was important to do that.”
It also worked in laying the foundation for the return of Gruden, who Al Davis once traded away.
His reasons for being so persistent in his pursuit of Gruden extended beyond just a hope of returning the team to a successful era.
“Every time I went to Tampa to talk to him about coming back, he was so excited about showing me film and breakdowns. It reminded me of being around my dad,” Mark Davis said.