Former NFL QB Dan Pastorini recalls battles with Al Davis
An excerpt from Taking Flak, on the career of former QB Dan Pastrorini
The NFL quarterback had a war of words with the late Al Davis
Pastorini dated Farrah Fawcett, married a Playboy model, posed for Playgirl
Dan Pastorini changed the way NFL quarterbacks played the game, donning the first Flak Jacket to protect three shattered ribs. He threw perhaps the most fateful pass in playoff history, a controversial championship moment that led to use of NFL replay. He dated Farrah Fawcett, married a Playboy model and posed for Playgirl. Pastorini never has told the whole story. Until now. Here's an excerpt from his new book, Taking Flak -- My Life in the Fast Lane. Copyright © 2011 by Dan Pastorini. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.
When I got traded from Houston [to Oakland in 1980], the headline the next day blared, "Pastorini can make passes at Farrah Fawcett in Hollywood."
No one really understood why I left. It was simple. I was miserable.
For nine years I tried to get those guys and that city a winner. When we got a winner, I tried to get to a Super Bowl. They never got there with me and I was tired of being told I was the problem. So if I was the problem, I wanted a change. Maybe they could get there without me. Going to the West Coast had nothing to do with chasing a career in Hollywood or Farrah. I thought I could go home again, plus my daughter Brahna was in California, so I could actually see her more often.
I became even more introspective and critical of myself as I faced the reality of leaving. I was banged up and beat up emotionally and physically. I packed up my apartment, hopped into my Porsche and turned on the radio as I headed west on Interstate-10. I turned on a sports talk show and heard everybody talking about the trade. One of the hosts declared, "Well, we finally got rid of Pastorini. I've got two things to say about Dante: Goodbye and good riddance."
I turned off the radio, stuck my right hand out of the sun roof, stepped on the gas, shot the finger into the air and said, "Screw you, Houston."
Farrah and I spent less time together after we lost to the Steelers [in Week 7], including at the Super Bowl in Los Angeles. During the week, we went out just twice. We planned to spend a lot of time together at the Super Bowl, but she was divorcing Lee Majors and dating Ryan O'Neal.
Still, Farrah and I had become very close. Not many people knew how serious we were. My last night there, she came over for a Nooner and before she left, she jumped on top of me, gave me a big kiss and said, "I can't wait to see you tonight."
When I walked into the bathroom after she left, I saw that she wrote on the mirror in red lipstick, "I want to have your baby."
But Farrah didn't return my calls that night. I didn't hear from her the rest of the week, or the next. Or ever. One minute she wanted to have my baby, the next she was gone. My secretary, Marge Mangoulis, had her pegged from the start. Marge told me Farrah just wanted to screw around with me, but Ryan O'Neal was better for her career. Marge probably was right about that, too. Farrah had no conscience.
Not long after I got to Oakland, I got a call from Ira Ritter, the publisher of Playgirl Magazine. I guessed he saw me in the tabloids with Farrah. He asked if I would do a spread in Playgirl. One of my receivers with the Raiders, Bobby Chandler, dared me to do it and I figured, why not? Joe Namath did a spread in Cosmopolitan and Burt Reynolds did Playgirl, so I told Ira I would do it, but I didn't want frontal shots published. It was just one of those decisions that sounded good at the time and was a big seller on the newsstands. When it came out, I had hundreds of them sent to me by women to autograph. But I did it mostly just because of ego. I didn't want to be outdone by someone else. I caught hell in the locker-room and I don't think it sat well with Al Davis, but I was just reacting like I always did, being Hollywood because it felt right.
I heard all the stories about Al Davis. I knew some players loved him and others hated him. I heard that he and Kenny Stabler didn't speak for a year before the Raiders traded Snake [to Houston for me]. I heard that he played favorites and could be prone to mood swings and temper tantrums.
My kind of guy, I figured. But when I was learning the offense, getting to know the players and looking for a place to live I didn't see any of that.
Al was a prince to me. He showed me around the facility, introduced me to people in the organization and put me up at the Hyatt Regency until I could find a place. He called just about every day to ask if everything was OK or if I needed anything. I stayed at the Hyatt for three months. He got me a car to drive and paid for everything, including meals. He called and asked how I was picking up the offense, if I needed a realtor, if I'm getting around the city OK. I thought, This guy isn't anything like I thought he would be.
I finally asked Al if he could help me with something that had been weighing on my mind. I asked him the same thing I asked Bud Adams.
With their restaurant closed and entering their retirement years, mom and dad were struggling with money. I had been giving them $1,500 a month, but I didn't want that to put a strain on my finances. I told Al about my parents' predicament and asked if I could redo my contract, so I could get more money upfront and less deferred.
"How much would take care of what you're paying your parents?"
"Probably $15,000 or maybe $20,000," I told him.
"Let's do $50,000, to make sure."
He redid the contract in just a couple of days, adding $50,000 to my salary and deferring $50,000 less. Just like that, it was done.
When Bum traded me to the Raiders, sports writers all over the country said Al and I would be a match made in heaven. I had my rebellious side, spoke my mind and had a temper, but Al didn't care about any of that. All he cared about was winning. And I had that lightning bolt for a right arm, which fit in perfectly with the way Al liked his teams to stretch the field. My throws maybe didn't have the same zip they once had, but I still had a better arm than most quarterbacks in the league. Al wanted the vertical passing game and I was his guy. Cliff Branch could outrun a lot of coverages, so if I threw the ball out to him, he'd go get it. Perfect fit.
Jim Plunkett was my backup and I always felt the resentment from him; an uneasiness. For the first time since we were in high school, I was picked in front of him and it wasn't an easy pill for him to swallow.
Jim was a fragile guy. He went through a lot of s--- in New England, just like I did in Houston and Archie Manning did in New Orleans. I finally produced when I got a good team around me in Houston, but Plunkett never produced and had a big chip on his shoulder. He was just a sensitive guy.
Training camp went well for me. I was hungry to get back to the AFC Championship Game and lo and behold, one of the first faces I saw at camp was referee Jim Tunney, who didn't have the balls to make the right call in Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship Game the year before. Jim visited us for an annual rules seminar.
The big change he talked about was the possibility of the league going to instant-replay to make correct calls. He said the league was talking about it and testing instant-replay during the preseason. I sat there, just disgusted looking at Tunney, as he talked about how replay might work, how it would be tested and eventually how it would be implemented.
Then he showed a video of a, "potential reviewable call." It was the throw I made to Mike Renfro against the Steelers [in the 1979 AFC Championship Game].
"Are you s---ting me?" I hollered.
I raised my hand and Tunney looked at me, bothered, but took my question.
"Was he inbounds, Jim?"
"No, he wasn't. He didn't have possession."
"Well you're the only one who thinks so, Jim."
He refused to ever admit he blew that call. Every other referee on the field that day saw replays, said Mike was in, and apologized. Some of them apologized to me personally. It was a catch. The league said it was a blown call. That was the entire reason Jim was up there talking about instant replay. But he was a cocky son of a b---- that refused to ever admit he was wrong.
We opened the [Raiders 1980] regular-season against Kansas City and absolutely swarmed them. I threw for 317 yards and a couple of touchdowns and could have thrown for 400. It was easy. It was pitch-and-catch, and I did feel like the Raiders and I were a match made in heaven. The next week at San Diego, I hit Branch for a long touchdown bomb and that's when I realized just how fast he was. I was trying to throw the ball away, but he put it into another gear and ran under it. By the end of the day, though, I threw a couple of picks, hyperextended my knee, missed a few plays and we lost in overtime. The next week we beat the Redskins, but I threw three picks. The home fans in Oakland were booing me. Walking off the field with Joe Theisman after the game, Joe told me, "Man, we played you in Houston and they booed you. Now they don't like you here, either?"
I just laughed and shook my head, but it was a rude awakening. I replaced the Messiah out there when I took over for Kenny Stabler. Nothing I did was right, even when we won. I limped through a pretty bad game at Buffalo on my hurt knee and then, at home against the Chiefs, Gino Mangiero crashed into the bottom of my knee as I released a pass. I broke my right tibia plateau. It snapped clean and went into my knee. I couldn't straighten my leg; the bones were just sort of locked together. As I lay there, grabbing my leg, trying not to scream, I heard fans booing me. When they carried me off the field, more fans were booing and it was louder. My father was in the stands, crying. I wasn't Kenny Stabler, which meant I had no chance replacing him.
Two days later, I had surgery at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. The surgeon straightened my leg and put it in a cast. I spent three days in the hospital and the doctor told me it would take six to eight weeks to heal. I got a few calls from teammates and Coach Tom Flores while I was in the hospital. Al called me once, but didn't say much, just, "Tough break."
When I got back to Oakland, I went to the practice facility to see the trainers and my teammates. I walked into the locker-room on crutches just as practice had started. When I turned the corner from the training room into the locker-room, I saw Al across the locker-room, about 50 feet away from me.
"Mr. Davis, how ya doing?"
He didn't say a word. He just glanced up at me and kept walking toward me, down the center of the locker-room, turning his head side-to-side, looking into every locker. He did this all the time and I never was quite sure why. He was either making sure no one was late to practice, or just snooping into every player's locker. But it was as if I wasn't even in the room. He just totally ignored me. As I stood there, he kept walking toward me, not acknowledging that I even was there.
He walked to within 10 feet of me and I said loudly, "Hey, Al! How ya doing?"
He stopped, looked at me and just kind of exhaled and shook his head with a look of complete disgust on his face. It was as if I was some kind of piece of meat that wasn't any use to him anymore. I was waste.
He walked right past me, so close that he almost brushed one of my crutches and didn't say a word. My mind started racing, thinking all kinds of things. Is he trying to send me some kind of message? Is this some kind of game?
As he walked past I shouted, "Hey, m-----f-----, what's your problem?"
He stopped, turned around and looked at me like I was a piece of trash. He looked at me like I wasn't even worth the dirt on the bottom of his shoes. I walked out to practice with my head scrambled. What kind of game was Al playing? I realized this was just the kind of man he was. He's petty. He throws trash away. To him, I wasn't a man or a human being. I was trash because I broke my tibia. I thought to myself, if that's the game he wanted to play, by God, let's dance you son of a b----.
I started busting my a-- trying to get my leg back in shape. I drank two gallons of milk a day. I massaged my leg, took calcium pills, vitamin C. I sat at night watching TV, flexing my leg inside my cast, trying to keep the muscles active. Four weeks later, before we played the Dolphins at home, the team doctor said he wanted to examine my leg. They cut off the cast and took an X-ray.
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