On a team that has rogues and renegades from the managing general partner on down, Hendricks is the the blithe spirit. "I adopted the philosophy a long time ago that you're on this earth to do anything you like as long as you don't hurt anybody," he says. Davis once inquired of Hendricks how he thought Matuszak, the gigantic but perennially troublesome defensive end, would fit in with the Raiders. "Al," Hendricks said, "what possible difference will one more make?"
On his days off, Hendricks drives from his home in Orinda in the East Bay to San Francisco's Union Street, which abounds in chic singles bars. Hendricks, who is married and the father of two young sons, eschews these in favor of the Bus Stop, which is the sort of neighborhood tavern one is supposed to find only in places like Pittsburgh. He is a folk hero in this resort for frustrated jocks, and to some of the regulars, like Mike Clark and Tom Bartley, he has become a close friend. Hendricks' good-natured macho humor has made him, in every sense, one of the Bus Stop gang. Last week he said farewell there before leaving for New Orleans by buying rounds of "the championship drink—blackberry brandy." Then, for good measure, he crossed the street to Perry's, a somewhat more fashionable place, to buy one for bartender Michael McCourt, another old friend. And he startled some of the customers there by reciting from his favorite poet, William Blake: "Tyger, Tyger, burning bright/In the forests of the night...."
"When O.J. was playing for the 49ers," Hendricks recalled in a more prosaic moment, "we'd work both sides of Union Street—he in Perry's and me in the Bus Stop. Once I helped his girl friend get the heel of her shoe out of a vent in the sidewalk, and then I scared hell out of her by pretending to clothesline O.J. She thought he was being attacked by some ruffian from across the street."
The blackberry brandy-fueled merriment continued after practice the following day as Hendricks presided over a cast of NFL stars, past and present, at the Hilton Hotel bar near the Raiders' practice field. The celebrants included Brodie; his fellow NBC analyst and former All-Pro defensive tackle, Merlin Olsen; former 49er Tight End Monty Stickles, who's also a broadcaster; former Raider and current Oiler Tight End Dave Casper; and, among other Raiders, Matuszak, Jeff Barnes and O'Steen. Championship drinks flowed in profusion. Hayes wasn't among this garrulous company, but he will be there on Sunday at his familiar corner when the Raiders, this most heterogeneous of NFL teams, regroup for a last unified effort.
As Hendricks' house poet, Blake, has written, "What immortal hand & eye/Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?"