Al Davis vs. The NFL
Available on Disney+
They were two of the most important figures in the history of pro football. And for a quarter of a century, their long-running feud was a central storyline in the NFL’s evolution into the most popular and successful league in sports. Now, in Al Davis vs. the NFL, director Ken Rodgers and NFL Films look back on the unremitting, uncompromising, and always colorful battle between Raiders owner Al Davis and NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle. Beginning in the mid-1960s when Rozelle was the NFL’s young commissioner and Davis led the rival AFL, and continuing through the 1980s when Davis waged a lawsuit against the league to allow him to move the Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles, the two titans were constantly and very publicly at odds. The hostilities progressed even as the Raiders emerged as one of the NFL’s most popular and successful franchises, winning three Super Bowls in the course of eight years in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, and wouldn’t subside until Rozelle’s retirement in 1989. There’s certainly no shortage of significance to the documentary being released just as the Raiders conclude their inaugural season in their latest home, Las Vegas, playing inside a new state-of-the-art stadium. And for a film about two men now deceased, Rodgers and his team strove to take a fresh, alternative approach to telling the story: bringing Al and Pete “back to life” using new, innovative technology commonly known as “deepfake,” and having them narrate their shared tale in first-person. While the re-creations may not be the real thing, the specific stories each character tells are true, and their dialogue is based on a treasure trove of interviews from the NFL Films vault. The result is a startlingly original, entertaining, and revealing look at a seminal football story -and a reminder of the charisma and significance of two giants in the world of sports.