IT'S PAST MIDNIGHT, and only one light is burning at the Raiders' world headquarters and sycophant sanctuary. It's in the office of team boss Al Davis, who is conducting a one-man brainstorming session as he plots the next move for his floundering franchise.
Wearily, the 80-year-old Davis gets up from his chair and moves slowly down a dark hall. He pushes open a mahogany door and is met by a blinding light. Shielding his eyes with his hand, he sees silver walls, black carpet and a large desk — behind which, incredibly, sits his 54-year-old alter ego.
Al at 80: "What the ...? This isn't the managing general partner's washroom."
Al at 54: "I know this seems strange. Don't run from it. Come on in."
Al at 80 (suspiciously): "Haven't I seen you before?"
Al at 54: "Not for 26 years, since the morning after Super Bowl XVIII."
Al at 80: "That was a great game. We dominated the Washington Redskins. I woke up the next morning in my hotel penthouse, opened the curtains and had the world at my feet. And you weren't there."
Al at 54: "Yes I was — when you looked in the mirror. I'm the man you used to be."
Al at 80: "You wish. What are you doing here, sonny boy?"
Al at 54: "It's time for your employee evaluation."
Al at 80: "Employee? I own this team."
Al at 54: "But I owned the team people hated and feared. I owned the team that won 100 games in the '70s. You haven't won 100 in the 15 years since you've been back in Oakland."
Al at 80: "We've had the players. Our coaches have failed them."
Al at 54: "Let's start there. 'Shows leadership skills and accepts responsibility.' I've given you a 'Needs improvement.' "
Al at 80: "I'm telling you it was a coaching failure. I gave Art Shell a second chance, and he hired some guy from a bakery to be the offensive coordinator."
Al at 54: "Actually, it was a bed-and-breakfast. The bigger point is, who hires the coaches? Who approves everything that happens in the organization? We both know the answer. Their failure is your failure as well."
Al at 80: "So you say."
Al at 54: " 'Embraces new philosophies and advances in the field.' I've given you another 'Needs improvement' here."
Al at 80: "Have you seen me work the overhead projector?"
Al at 54: "Since you won your first Super Bowl, the NFL has seen the advent of liberalized pass-blocking rules, the shotgun, the West Coast offense, exotic blitzing schemes, the Tampa 2 defense and the wildcat. Yet you still insist your cornerbacks play the same bump-and-run defense that went out with Connie Stevens movies."
Al at 80: "You ever hear Connie Stevens sing the national anthem? It brings tears to your eyes."
Al at 54: " 'Shows technical expertise.' 'Needs improvement.' "
Al at 80: "Says who?"
Al at 54: "Says your last three first-round draft picks — Darrius Heyward-Bey when you could have had Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin or Percy Harvin; Darren McFadden when you could have had Jonathan Stewart or Chris Johnson; and JaMarcus Russell when you could have had anybody else."
Al at 80: "JaMarcus is going to be great."
Al at 54: "He makes Marc Wilson look like Joe Montana-times-Brett Favre. Now let's move to 'Works and plays well with others.' Yet another 'Needs improvement,' I'm afraid."
Al at 80: "I dominate working and playing well with others."
Al at 54: "No, you dominate others — starting with your silly feud with Marcus Allen, when you put your ego ahead of what was best for the team. You did the same thing with Jon Gruden. You won't hire a general manager because you don't want to share authority, and you won't even take a call from Rich Gannon."
Al at 80: "Me? What about you?"
Al at 54: "Hey, I listened to Ron Wolf. And ... help me out here."
Al at 80 (sneering): "You wouldn't have put up with Gruden. He wanted credit for everything."
Al at 54: "Remember the old adage: Winners get to write history. If you win, you can write the history however you want, with plenty of credit to go around."
Al at 80: "So what are you saying?"
Al at 54: "Sometimes you have to choose between total control and success. Think about it."
Al at 80: "I'd rather serve decent food in the press box."
Al at 54: "Well, at least we agree on something."
Contact Gary Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.