Who are the five most interesting sports figures currently in the Bay Area?
By interesting I mean someone you could take out of his context and put in a novel, and you’d stay up all night reading about him. Think a Dostoyevsky novel. Al Davis fit this definition.
By interesting I don’t mean nice people. Nice people are often boring. I am talking about fascinating people, people who sometimes escape our understanding. Some who fit this definition in the past were Barry Bonds, Bill Walsh and Jose Canseco. They were (are) multilayered, complex, complicated, tortured, nice and not nice.
Here is my list of the five most interesting sports figures currently on the local scene.
5. Joe Lacob
He is the smartest team owner in the Bay Area. He already has put the Warriors on the verge of being an elite franchise like the Celtics. He did it fast. He got the land in San Francisco for a new arena the Niners should have had. How smart is that?
He has an ego as big as Texas. He loves to talk about himself. He wants you to hear his opinion. He has an opinion on everything. He believes he is an expert on basketball. He is like many self-made people with new money. He can be crass. He talks too much. He laughs out of context.
He loves to make decisions. Big decisions. He is a decider of the first order. He gets off on firing people. And hiring people. He brought in Jerry West. He has a general manager who is one of the best. He dumped a winning coach. He didn’t care about public opinion. He got the coach, Steve Kerr, everyone wanted. Even Phil Jackson and the Knicks wanted Kerr, but Lacob got him. Some owners think small. Lacob’s vision is as large as a movie-theater screen.
4. Vernon Davis
Who is this guy?
He is a great football player but he is not a typical football player. How many players are painters and can talk about Renaissance art? He does not take part in the camaraderie of the team. In practice he is a loner. He boycotted offseason camps and missed the start of training camp and got nothing out of it. How does his mind work?
He can be parental on the practice field. A few years ago, tight end Nate Byham tore his ACL during a preseason workout. Jim Harbaugh immediately moved practice to another field and ordered the players to go there. Davis refused to move. He knelt over the prone Byham. For a long time. Davis did not care what Harbaugh thought. A teammate was down.
He puts himself above the team. He is a diva. He talks about his “brand.” Some teammates must consider him an oddball. He sees himself as a leader whether or not others do. He is always agreeable. It is impossible to know what he’s thinking.
3. Mark Davis
He has a tough act to follow. He is entirely different from his dad. Al was confrontational to the max. He enjoyed making enemies. He saw life as a series of conflicts and he always had to win.
Mark grew up in Piedmont and is a gentle soul. Appears to be. He wants to please. You can talk to him. He will listen. He talks slower than his dad. His dad was Brooklyn. Mark is California. Lots of people thought he would flee in fear from taking over the Raiders. The job would be too much for him. He did not flee. He embraced all the problems. He has new ideas.