With 30 seconds to go, Al Davis raised his left hand, the one heavy with the old Super Bowl ring and a diamond bracelet at the wrist, the diamonds spelling "Al," and from the press box he jabbed a fist toward his Raiders far across the Superdome. Oakland 27, Philadelphia 10. Give the devil his due, for today the Raiders of Al Davis were heavenly, thanks mostly to an angel of a quarterback, Jim Plunkett.
By superstitution of late, Davis abandoned his razor. He would shave only on game days, and with a two-week layoff coming here Al presented a scruffy countenance fully in keeping with the image Pete Rozelle would have you believe -- that Davis, for wanting to move his business to a better corner, has passed from a charming rogue to an outlaw, this creature of cunning who began work as an assistant coach at The Citadel and became owner of the winningest team in NFL history.
Today he came with his cheeks the smoothness of a baby's bottom. Today he came dressed not in the black and silver he has made the symbol of his darkness. Today he came all in white, Darth Vader going to Sunday School. With victory assured, he fell into a lockstep with cops for the run to the elevator and his meeting with Rozelle, who would present the Lombardi Trophy to the owner.
This could be a touchy moment. Davis is defying the NFL. He also is suing it for $160 million. He has named Rozelle as a ticket scalper. Rozelle has said Davis' attempts to move the Raiders to Los Angeles could destroy the league. They do not, for sure, exchange Valentines.
Davis said don't worry. In the elevator leaving the press box, flanked by cops to herd him through the crowd, Davis said the presentation would be no problem. "I love pro football," said the man who started in the old AFL as a receiver coach at San Diego nearly 20 years ago, "and I'm not going to do anything. . ."
They led him into the Oakland locker room. "You said it in camp!" cried out Sam Boghoshian, a Raider assistant, pulling Davis near him for a kiss. "God, I can't believe it," said Ron Wolf, a front office executive. "You better start believing it," Davis said.
The presentation ceremony was all class. Rozelle said the right things, praising Davis for putting the team together, hailing Flores for "one of the great coaching jobs in recent years," and giving credit to all the Raiders, especially Jim Plunkett and his offensive lineman.
For his part, Davis called it the "finest hour in the history of the Oakland Raiders." And he spoke to the former hostages. "Take pride and be proud," he said to them. "Your commitment to excellence and your will to win will endure forever. You were magnificent."
"You're a genius," someone called out. "A genius!" And Al Davis raised high that left hand again, pumping his fist in celebration.
Davis is the Raider brain, as well as bankroll, for he oversees the draft, does the trades, creates the offensive and defensive philosophies (leaving the Xs and Os to Flores) -- and even decides which men to play and when to play them.
Such as Jim Plunkett. Only two years ago, Plunkett was out of work. Today he was a hero. "This is what I've been shooting for all my life," he said an hour after being named the game's outstanding player (13 of 21 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns). "I don't know if I feel vindicated as a quarterback, but I'm happy to be playing football after a 2 1/2 year absence. Suddenly, everything is going right for me."
In his first seven years as a pro, Plunkett did nothing well enough to make his hometown San Francisco 49ers keep him. They fired him after the 1978 preseason. Cut him. Bye-bye Jimmy. Take your Heisman Trophy and get lost. For 10 days, Plunkett had no job.
"What did I do in those 10 days? A lot of beer drinking," he said today, an hour after throwing the Raiders to victory. "Despair. I thought it might be over for me. I thought I'd have to do something else."
Al Davis wanted him. Who knows why? Plunkett was gun-shy at New England, dodging shadows and throwing the ball wildly. With the 49ers, he flailed around for two humiliating seasons. The worst day of that '78 whose charming rogue/genius/outlaw was on the sidelines that day. "I liked what I saw," Davis said.
Hiring Plunkett, Davis made him sit out the entire 1978 season. He held a clipboard a lot. "He was a hurt fellow," Davis said. After throwing only 15 passes last season, Plunkett took over this year when Dan Pastorini broke his leg in the fifth game. With Plunkett at quarterback, the Raiders won 13 of their last 15 games.
Plunkett's parents are blind. His father sold papers on a street corner. From a Mexican ghetto, he rose to the Heisman Trophy as a senior at Stanford. Given up for junk in the fall of '78, today he was asked, "Now are you going to make a movie of your life?"?
"I doubt it," Plunkett said. "We've talked about movies for several years, but I don't see having it done."
The questions came. Was this the biggest game of his career? "As a professional, I'd say it was by far," said the 33-year-old quarterback who, as a kid, won the Rose Bowl.
How did he feel going into a Super Bowl? "You get so much adrenaline going, I was exhausted in pregame warmups. But with this team, I didn't get nervous at any time. These are great players. It is great to finally be with a team that has running backs and an offensive line and great receivers."
Did Plunkett know that he joins exclusive company by becoming a Heisman Trophy winner who quarterbacks a Super Bowl winner? "Really?"
Yes, only Roger Staubach did it before.
"Nice company," Jim Plunkett said.