Steve Jobs and Al Davis: Twins?

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October 14, 2011 by David Gillaspie

JUST WIN, BABY

Two men shared the same state, a similar drive, and died three days apart.

Al and Steve both ruled their world in the up and down fashion of hits and misses.

The Oakland Raiders won often enough to stand with the greatest teams, though they won with a certain style.

Apple took down the biggest in its field with a certain style.

To understand the similarities between Steve and Al, it helps to know what drove them hardest. For a full account you’d have to feel the frustration of early personal computing for one, and see an LA Raider game in the Colesium for the other.

Do you know anyone who fits both conditions? If not, you’ve come to the right place.

Steve Jobs is my age. He started Apple in 1976, the year I got out of the Army and into the University of Oregon’s English Department in the same month.

Everyone had a typewriter and white correction tape.

Computer operators used key strokes to make their machines work. The ‘F’ keys were important, F1 through F12. It was all very scientific, which wasn’t part of the UO English degree.

If keyboard navigation drove the ordinary person nuts, it had to warp a guy like Steve Jobs. His brain had to be screaming in 1976, “What the heck is the difference between the huge machines, the main frames, and something for the rest of us?”

Cost? Expense? Money? Or a really good idea.

In those days a laptop was a clipboard, a telephone was heavy, and music poured out of big speakers or big headphones.

Where are those tools today? In the garage in case all else fails.

What else is in the garage in case of emergency, ICE?

Al Davis’ mantra.

Just Win isn’t about sportsmanship and the best man winning, it’s about winning. It’s about ‘show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser’ mentality. And it’s not for everyone.

Mr. Davis figured out how to win by recruiting from the cast-off pile of NFL players either past their prime, or those who didn’t get what he figured was a good shot to excel. Some of them took the Raiders all the way to the top, some didn’t, but they all got a taste of what it means to live in Al’s world.

When the Raiders packed their bags in Oakland and unpacked in Los Angeles, Al said, “Try and stop me,” to the NFL.

Then they packed up and moved back to Oakland. Who stopped them?

Will the Colts ever move back to their rightful home, Baltimore?

Will the Ravens/Browns return to Cleveland, the Titans to Houston. Too much water’s gone down the pipe for those teams to change.

But not the Raiders.

Like Apple and Steve Jobs, Al and the Raiders set their own course and dared anyone to block them.

I was working on my MacBook when I read about Steve’s death. After a thank you and a wish for safe passage, I looked at my screen and wondered what it would have looked like without him.

Buggy windows with more error messages? No mouse to bridge the gap between the key tappers and the rest of us? No touch pad?

Steve Jobs was a ‘Just Win, Baby’ guy as much as Al Davis. These two winners saved the rest of us from the corporate sludge we wear most of the time. They saved a small part of our souls that foster truth and beauty, that nourishes insight and revelation.

Somewhere inside that small part of our soul is a festering, even angry, idea that screams out, “If anything gets in the way of truth and beauty, or insight and revelation, I will smack it down and crush it into the dirt.”

It might be Al’s voice, or Steve’s. Is there a difference?

I’m renaming my Mac for Steve or Al, and so should you. But which one leads the pack? You must decide for yourself.

David ‘Al’ Gillaspie

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