Mark Davis has been the sole owner of the Oakland Raiders since his father Al Davis, the legendary coach and owner, died in 2011. During that time, the Raiders have gone 19-44 (2-1 this year!) and are in serious talks to move to Los Angeles, where they would share a stadium with the San Diego Chargers in Carson, California.
If the Raiders franchise is known these days for its terrifying fans and mostly putrid football teams, Mark Davis himself has by and large stayed out of the public eye. Unlike his outspoken father, not much is known about Mark Davis aside from his trademark orange Prince Valiant bowl cut.
Earlier this week in ESPN the Magazine, Tim Keown published a revealing profile of Davis that offers a rare glimpse into the life and mind of one of the most fascinating owners in sports. From its first paragraph, the profile gives us a sense of just how eccentric Davis really is:
Most days start the same — behind the wheel of a white 1997 Dodge Caravan SE outfitted with a bubble-top Mark III conversion kit, a VHS player mounted to the roof inside and a r8hers personalised plate. Mark Davis pilots this machine from his East Bay home to the nearest P.F. Chang’s, where he sits at the left end of the bar, same spot every time, puts his white fanny pack on the counter, orders an iced tea and unfolds the day’s newspapers. Beside him on the bar, next to the papers, is his 2003 Nokia push-button phone with full texting capability. When someone calls and asks him where he is, he says, “I’m in my office,” and sends a knowing nod to the bartenders. It gets ’em every time.
Davis is worth an estimated $US500 million dollars, so his tricked-out minivan and throwback mobile phone are telling of the man’s personality. It’s possible to interpret Davis as someone wildly out-of-touch with reality, but it seems that more than anything he just loves football. Unlike his father, he handles almost no actual responsibilities, and when he does make decisions, he does so in curious fashion.
During one dinner with a group that included his mother and Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, Davis inexplicably handed a piece of paper to McKenzie with the corners torn off.
“This is what I need you to get me,” Davis said.
McKenzie, flummoxed, turned the tiny triangles over in his hands.
Seeing nothing, McKenzie gave up. “What is this?” he asked.
“Two corners,” Davis said. “I need you to get me two corners.”
The entire profile is filled with quirky moments like this, and depending on how you read it some may look at Davis as a tragic figure, or a total lunatic. Regarding the famous bowl cut, Keown writes that Davis travels all the way from his home in northern California to Palm Springs just to get it cut at the same barber:
In perfect Davis family fashion, it’s a middle finger to convention. Davis travels to Palm Desert to get it cut, just as he travelled to Chico from Oakland to visit a preferred barber long after he left college at Chico State. “I think he’s had three barbers since college,” [former Raiders WR Cliff] Branch says. “If he likes something, he stays loyal.”
The question of loyalty is a sort of recurring motif of the piece, particularly regarding the team’s uncertain future in Oakland, and Davis’ tenuous relationship with his father, who when he was alive wouldn’t let his son travel on the team plane to games, and once stayed in the car while his wife was visiting their son — and his pet pigs. Needless to say, the whole profile is worth a read.
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