The Raiders and One-Eyed Willie

A Football Life, Behind the Scenes, Heidi Bahnck, Oakland Raiders

Editor’s Note:  It’s a football pirate’s night at the movies this evening with the NFL Network premiere of the newest “A Football Life.”  But before the curtain rises on his documentary, here’s another take on Al Davis — a profound influence on football, and a colorful character who earlier this week drew comparison to one infamous silver screen villain and here today, inspires thoughts of another memorable movie monster.              

When Al Davis died on my birthday last month, my thoughts turned to both the Raiders and birthdays, specifically another famous Raider who would’ve turned 61 on October 25.  Happy belated birthday, John Matuszak!

The Tooz may be best known as a defensive lineman for the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders, but to me, he will forever be known as Sloth, the deformed yet lovable misfit from the ‘80s kids’ classic “The Goonies.”

John Matuszak (AP)

Al Davis may have been a overt Raiders fan, omnipresent on the sidelines in silver and black urging his team to “Just win, baby!”, but Sloth was definitely a covert Raider, ripping open his shirt with the battle cry “Hey you guys!” to reveal a Raiders t-shirt underneath.

With Matuszak’s help, Davis’ Raiders swashbuckled their way to victory in Super Bowl XI to capture the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy.  But Sloth was a swashbuckler too, sliding down One-Eyed Willie’s pirate ship sail to save his friends, accompanied by Max Steiner’s rousing music from “The Adventures of Don Juan.”

Though he was often cast as a villain, Davis was also an innovator, refusing to play games in segregated Mobile, AL in the ‘60s, for example.  Sloth could’ve been a baddie too, born into the Fratelli crime family, but ultimately he chose to stand with his friends Mikey and Data and Chunk, helping them save their town from being redeveloped into a golf course.

So tonight as we look back at Al Davis in “A Football Life,” let’s not forget Sloth– er, uh, Matuszak — another Raider initially cast as a villain who turned out to be a Goonie after all.

Al Davis: A Football Life premieres tonight at 10 pm/ET only on NFL Network.

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