Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis is nothing like a normal type of guy. Let’s just get that clear right up front. If the bleak facts of his life—the regular lonely patronage of strip-mall casual-chain restaurant bars; the Dodge Caravan; the wardrobe of licensed team apparel he gets for free; the creepy and bad haircut that hasn’t changed in decades—exude a certain stunted doofus haplessness you might recognize by spirit if not particulars in untold millions of our nation’s normal divorced dads, it’s possible this only makes him weirder, because he is not one of those. When anybody’s Uncle Mike spends 40 years making all his choices about what to eat or wear as though forced to do so blindfolded, at gunpoint, inside a Dick’s Sporting Goods, during a power outage, it’s possible to imagine that the familiar material constraints of normal working life played some role in trapping him inside a 9-year-old’s idea of how best to use the grownup privilege of choosing one’s own pants. To imagine that better life circumstances and opportunities could have enlarged his tastes beyond “stuff that would seem bitchin’ to Chuck E. Cheese,” but didn’t, and so he just sort of gave up. No such constraints apply to Mark Davis.
Davis is a many-hundreds-of-millionaire by birth, the inheritor of an entire NFL team. He has never held a real job or had a real responsibility, and he never will. Every hour of his life has been free time. The areas where he seems most like the kind of humble, genial dingus who could be fun to sit next to in the cheap seats at a ballgame are precisely where he’s the most chilling. Norman Bates presented as an unthreatening goof, too.
All of this is to say, when you see me on the streets of Manhattan dressed like I teleported there from my bed and bent beneath the strain of carrying a refrigerator-sized backpack quite possibly stuffed with every solid object I’ve ever looked at, what you are seeing is normal and fine and in fact disarmingly sweet. Aw, look, a normal type of guy, you think, unprepossessingly wandering the streets of Manhattan with his entire life on his back like a damn hermit crab. That is because that image of me, of a sweaty bedraggled oaf without even the option of bringing elegance, dignity, or grace to the simple effort of getting from here to there, is the truth.
Whereas this image, of Mark Davis leaving the NFL owners’ meeting in New York today, fills me with icy dread:
Do not make the category mistake of finding this image relatable. Mark Davis can afford, ten thousand times over, to have very skilled and sleek professionals carry his bags for him; to have all of the items that might go into a backpack attended to with great care and minimal friction and zero personal involvement on his part, so that he can glide effortlessly from the lobby of the building to a waiting vehicle; to do this clad in other than remaindered Las Vegas Raiders team merchandise. He could have all of that with little more than a snap of his fingers; the very rich in America do not even have to arrange these things for themselves (and frequently do not even have to actually pay for them). Choosing this, instead—choosing, that is, to lug his own gigantic backpack and suit bag, instead of cashing in a virtually nonexistent portion of his wealth and prestige to purchase a level of ease infinitely beyond the reach of a normal person—is the equivalent of that normal person willingly choosing to walk out of their hotel clad only in a paper grocery bag with leg-holes kicked into the bottom of it, with all their material possessions clutched in their arms, and then stand at the curb attempting to thumb a ride to their destination. That may be an understatement. It might be the equivalent of a normal person denying themselves the luxury of inhaling. The normal person who did that would not be normal or relatable. They would be bizarre and disturbing.
Anyway, here is this spooky backpack-ass weirdo looking like a friggin’ 6-year-old from Uncanny Valley Elementary School while giving what’s actually a pretty reasonable answer to a question about whether he’d like to see a written report of the NFL’s investigation into the Washington Football Team’s toxic organizational culture:
What’s in that backpack? Is it his entire barber or what. I don’t want to know. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.