Spoiler alert: Just win, baby.
Here we are, decades after Al Davis uttered those words regarding his Oakland/Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders, and the essence of what he said back then still applies to professional sports, but in different ways. I'll start with one way by asking a question: Does it matter inside your average locker room or clubhouse whether somebody is a Democrat, a Republican, an independent or a nothing regarding politics?
Well, um. What did Mr. Davis used to say again? That's the short answer, which brings us to the New England Patriots, suddenly in the news for reasons other than spending two Sundays ago in Houston continuing the NFL's latest dynasty by proving huge deficits are only for Washington, D.C.
Speaking of our nation's capital, it's where the Patriots are likely headed in a few months -- but one of their players said he won't go with them, especially if they're heading to the White House. Then another player for the team said the same thing. Then the number jumped to six. By the time the Patriots actually receive an official invitation to become the first pro championship team greeted by President Trump during his new administration, the list of no-shows could reach the amount they had ...
The last time they won the Super Bowl.
And the time before that.
And the time before that.
And the time before that.
"You know what's interesting, this is our, I'm happy to say, fifth Super Bowl in the last 16 years," Patriots owner Robert Kraft told an NBC audience Monday on "The Today Show." "And every time we've had the privilege of going to the White House, a dozen of our players don't go. This is the first time it's gotten any media attention. You know, some of the players have the privilege of going in college because they're on national championship teams, others have family commitments. But this is America. We're all free to do whatever's best for us. We're just privileged to be in a position to be going."
Kraft's analysis of the situation makes sense to me. It also does to the majority of his players. I mean, the Patriots were so upset their owner joins their head coach (Bill Belichick) and their starting quarterback (Tom Brady) in claiming President Trump as one of their buddies that they stormed back from a 25-point deficit earlier this month in Super Bowl LI to shock the Atlanta Falcons in overtime with the most unlikeliest of 34-28 victory.
The "Make America Great Again" cap in Brady's locker. Belichick's sappy letter of congratulations to Trump on his election. Kraft ignoring his long-time allegiance to the Democratic party to embrace the man who called him at least once a week for a year after his wife died. All of that is irrelevant to the Big Picture that always overshadows the gates (Spygate, Deflategate) and any other weirdness in the Patriots' world. As long as Brady keeps passing, while everybody else keeps blocking and tackling after receiving brilliant X's and O's from Belichick and the rest of his coaching staff, the Patriots are just fine, thank you.
So are the Golden State Warriors. They are as vocally to the left as the Patriots are to the right. No coach this side of Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs has delivered more anti-Trump words than Steve Kerr of the Warriors. When Kerr isn't blasting Trump's immigration plan ("I think it's shocking. I think it's a horrible idea."), he's suggesting the president's press secretary stretches the truth ("Sean Spicer will be talking about my career any second, 14,000 points," referring to his Orlando Magic career that actually featured just 122 points in 47 games).
Then came the boldness of Steph Curry, the Warriors' most popular player and a Hillary Clinton supporter during this past presidential election. First, during an interview last week with CNBC, Under Armour boss Kevin Plank said Trump ranked as "a real asset" to America. When Curry was asked by The San Jose Mercury News about Plank's remark, the point guard said, "I agree with that description, if you remove the 'et.'"
Curry has a contract with Under Armour through 2024.
You also have to believe several Warriors lack the political mindsets of Kerr and Curry, because NBA players aren't made from the same cookie cutter. Take Atlanta Hawks guard Kent Bazemore, for instance. He said he preferred Plank's remarks about Trump over those of Curry, and Bazemore is an Under Armour client who helped recruit Curry to the company. Said Bazemore of Plank's view of businessman Trump, "That's kind of what my thoughts were when he won the presidency. Have a businessman in office, because that's the way the world's trending. Even in the NBA, there's more business and entrepreneurship in athletics these days."
Maybe, but this is for sure: Bazemore doesn't dribble for the Warriors, and the ones who do only care that Curry remains among the top 15 scorers in the league. Kerr knows how to handle a team with talent everywhere, and the Warriors own the NBA's best record by far while winning 85 percent of the time.
I'll close with, "Just win, baby, sometimes." That also works, and the San Francisco 49ers proved as much last season after they finished 2-14. In the midst of it all, quarterback Colin Kaepernick was mediocre during his season-long refusal to stand during the national anthem as his protest against racial and social inequality in the United States of America. Even so, he won the 49ers' yearly Len Eshmont award for the player on the team who "best exemplifies the inspiration and courageous play" of Eshmont, a member of the franchise's first team in 1946. Only a few of Kaepernick's teammates sat or kneeled with him during national anthem this season, but a bunch of them voted to give him what is considered the 49ers' most prestigious award among players.
The bottom line in professional sports is always the bottom line. I'm hearing more of Davis in my head. Then again, that Kaepernick thing suggests something else about players and politics at this level.