Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Book Review: Just Win, Baby – The Al Davis Story


In the time since Al Davis has passed, just over a year now, much has been said and written of the man whose life was football. As members of Raider Nation we all know many of the stories of Mr. Davis. But few, if any of us, ever got to know much of the man himself. Davis’ unwavering and visionary nature that helped shape the game into what it is today is well detailed in Murray Olderman’s comprehensive biography appropriately entitled ‘Just Win, Baby: The Al Davis Story’. In addition to all the info Olderman somehow boils down to a quick 200+ pages of superb historical documentation, the decorated author also manages to paint a picture of the Davis that was a father, husband, friend and confidant.

Olderman’s book is by no means the lone offering in the literary world on the life of Davis. But it is perhaps the best account yet of a football life the likes of which we’ll never experience again.

You see to tell the story of Al Davis you must also detail this history of the game as the two are synonymous with one another. Olderman’s extensive research and unprecedented access (this book was born when Davis hired Olderman to write is biography) brings to life one of the greatest tales ever told in American sports.

From his humble beginnings in the Northeast to his dominating presence in the West, the path Mr. Davis blazed to become one of the most iconic figures in sports is as fascinating as it is inspirational. What separates Olderman’s account of Davis’s from other publications life can be found in the minutiae. For example, did you know Davis was able to secure control of the Raiders for a mere $18,000? Or how close John Elway was to being a Raider?

The book is sprinkled with nuggets of knowledge as we connect the dots of Davis’s life through his many interactions with men and women who not only shaped the game but indeed this country as well. While reading you’ll find yourself as a passenger along for a ride through the history of not only the NFL but the United States of America as well.

This great country was given its identity by men like Davis and that is what is most abundant in Olderman’s writings. From his many philanthropic acts done without another soul knowing to his color-blind hiring practices and stubbornly loyal ways, a man like Davis could have only been born on the 4th of July.

Of course there are also many who met Davis and were rubbed the wrong way by his brash nature. Olderman doesn’t shy away from that aspect either reminding us all that even those who knew Davis never truly knew what made him tick. But such is the dichotomy of a man driven to make his dreams reality.

For those eager to get their hands on this book fear not because JBB has you covered. If you haven’t already go ahead and enter your prediction for this Sunday’s game in Carolina and you could win a copy. For those looking to add to their collection or for a perfect holiday gift for the members of Raider Nation in your family look no further.

Now for those that already know the story of Davis I would suggest giving Olderman’s book a once over any way. Aside from the compelling life story of football’s original maverick ‘Just Win, Baby’ is a comprehensive retelling of the history of the NFL as it is impossible to talk of the merger without mentioning Davis. If you love the game then you’ve got to know how it came to be which means you have to be familiar with the one and only Al Davis.

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