There are two dates that stand out in every person's life -- the day they came into the world, and the day they left it. For Al Davis, he was born on the 4th of July. And he passed on October 8, 2011 at the age of 82.
Since that day, the Oakland Raiders have never been the same. Losing the most enigmatic presence in league history will do that.
The team had an emotional win the following Sunday in Houston, on a play which saw the Raider line up with 10 defenders and Michael Huff pick off a Matt Schaub pass in the end zone to seal the victory. They would then win again when they returned home to play the Browns in tribute to Davis.
They would set up the 'fire that burns brightest' torch at games and have since had numerous Raider legends light the torch to mark the start of the game.
The team was taken over by Al Davis' son, Mark, who ushered in an entirely new regime with a restructured front office that more closely resembled that of the other 31 NFL franchises. After all, Al Davis wore many hats with the Raiders and had worn many hats as an NFL pioneer including AFL commissioner, head coach, general manager, and owner.
From the moment Al Davis took over as head coach in 1963, the Raiders began their steady march to NFL supremecy. In 1967, they participated in Super Bowl II and for the next 20 years were one of the most dominant franchises in professional sports, including winning three Super Bowls.
They also enjoyed a strong run in the early 2000s, including a trip to the Super Bowl and two trips to the AFC Championship game.
In the four years since his death, the Raiders' new regime has struggled to be competitive as they looked to switch to a more conservative approach to player contracts, and shift to a more long term approach to building the team. But the tradition of the Raiders and the legacy of Al Davis remains, passed down to his son.
Al Davis' Raiders roster decisions may have been highly questionable in the final decade before his passing, but his motives were never in question -- Just Win Baby. And there has never been an owner in sports who cared more about having a winning franchise than Al Davis. Hopefully on this date next year, we can say the Raiders can live up to that vision.