Al Davis vs. The NFL Review – It Just Doesn’t Win, Baby

Al Davis vs. The NFL - Pete Rozelle and Al Davis

Over the NFL’s 101 years of existence, no owner has been more divisive than Raiders owner, Al Davis. He was an owner that pushed the status quo of the league. He was the first owner to hire an African-American to a head coaching position, and he was also the first to hire a female executive. Yet for all of his civil rights work, he waged several legal battles to get what wants. ESPN’s latest 30 for 30 documentary, Al Davis vs. The NFL, boldly tries to chronicle the feud between Al Davis and the NFL through their own words.

The documentary leans entirely on Al Davis and Pete Rozelle to “tell their side” of the feud. Unfortunately for our eyes, both Al Davis and Pete Rozelle are “brought back to life” with the use of deepfake technology. So instead of Princess Leia in Rogue One, we get something that you can get from deepfake apps. It’s a noble attempt to change the status quo of how first-account documentaries are made, but as Ian Malcolm said in Jurassic Park, “[they] were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” In other words, just because the technology is there to bring back people from the dead through the use of deepfake technology doesn’t mean you should — especially if the result ends up looking as off-putting as it does in the documentary.

Despite this distraction, the film does shed light on the feud between Al Davis and the NFL. Director Ken Rodgers (The Two Bills) weaves a narrative where both men are neither the hero nor the villain. They’re portrayed as unbiased as an NFL Films production can be. The spirit of David vs. Goliath endures in the film as Al Davis tries to be the master of his own destiny. “Al wanted to be a general of one team and one team only. Never part of any bigger league strategy,” as deepfake Pete Rozelle says in the documentary. For all his bravado, Davis was ahead of his time. Now, all of the NFL is following in the footsteps that he laid down as he left Oakland for Los Angeles, and the NFL grew into gigantic proportions because of it.

Overall, Al Davis vs. The NFL is a vastly different kind of first-account documentary that you may be used to, for better or worse. The use of deepfake technology to bring Al Davis and Pete Rozelle is an off-putting addition to the film, but you will definitely get the information you want about the NFL’s most notorious feud.

Rating: 3/5 atoms

Al Davis vs. The NFL premieres on February 4th on ESPN.

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Mark Pacis
Mark Pacis 1628 posts

Self-proclaimed "Human IMDb" and comic book geek. Biggest Iron Man fan you'll probably ever meet.