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The Princess of Darkness. Former NFL team executive Amy Trask has held many titles during her career – including chief executive, analyst, and author – but this nickname is what she is first and foremost known by to Raiders fans. Trask joined the Raiders as an intern during law school after the team moved from Oakland to Los Angeles – the position the result of a cold call she made to the team. From there, she worked her way up through the ranks of the organization, to the post she would eventually hold as chief executive. Along the way, Trask worked extremely closely with the late Al Davis, a man who treated her and others on his team without regard to gender, race, and age. Trask may have been the highest-ranking female executive in the NFL during her tenure with the Raiders, but in You Negotiate Like a Girl: Reflections on a Career in the National Football League, she shares how she found success by operating without regard to gender. Replete with insider tales about being part of the Raiders' front office, behind the closed doors of NFL owners meetings, and Davis himself, Trask's book is a must-read not only for football fans, but anyone who wants to succeed in business.
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About the Author
Amy Trask is an analyst for CBS Sports and CBS Sports Network. She appears regularly on That Other Pregame Show and We Need to Talk and periodically on NFL Today. She is the former CEO of the Oakland Raiders. Michael Freeman is a football columnist for Bleacher Report. He has previously been a writer for CBSSports.com, the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Dallas Morning News, and Florida Times-Union. He is the author of eight books. His latest book, Two Minute Warning, was published in 2015.
Read an Excerpt
You Negotiate Like a Girl
Reflections on a Career in the National Football League
By Amy Trask, Mike Freeman
Triumph Books LLCCopyright © 2016 Amy Trask and Mike Freeman
All rights reserved.
Negotiating for Al Davis was a challenge. He instructed, he directed, he managed, he micromanaged, he bellowed, he denounced, he demanded, and he denigrated. On occasion, he offered praise and expressed sincere appreciation. Because those moments were far less frequent than the excoriating moments, they were meaningful and precious. I knew that when Al offered praise or expressed appreciation, he meant it.
One particularly crucial and complicated transaction that consumed us for a considerable period of time offers a good example of what it was like to negotiate for him. It was the most difficult transaction with which I'd ever been involved, by a large margin. (It may surprise some, but this transaction was not in any way related to franchise relocation.)
Al didn't like how or the pace at which negotiations were proceeding, and on one of the many occasions on which he shared his displeasure he declared: "You negotiate like a girl."
Al was tense and angry and irascible throughout this process and he made many other interesting remarks. At one point during a very heated argument, he said to me in a harsh, derisive tone, "You're like that emperor of Japan."
Now that pissed me off. That was substantive. I knew exactly what he meant. His insinuation of "unconditional surrender" was absolutely clear. I went to my office and made a big sign, which I taped to the door: EMPEROR HIROHITO'S OFFICE. I left it there for a month or so. People were quizzical; a few asked me what that meant, and I told them to Google it. Ultimately, I took it down.
And the "you negotiate like a girl" remark? It didn't bother me.
People I respect have told me that I should have been offended by that remark and that I should have stated my objection to it.
I wasn't offended and I didn't state an objection. I knew that Al didn't care that I was a girl and I thought it a better use of my time and energy to negotiate and structure the most impressive deal possible.
So I rolled my eyes, laughed at him, and told him that he could handle the negotiation himself. Al responded as he almost always did: "Aw fuck." He didn't want to handle the negotiation; he wanted the girl to handle the negotiation.
* * *
I was honored that for much of the three decades that I worked for Al, one of the most enigmatic and extraordinary men in sports history, I was motherfucked every bit as often and every bit as forcefully as any defensive coordinator who worked for him. Certainly, those who knew Al knew that he motherfucked his defensive coordinators a lot. I was motherfucked every bit as much.
Swearing doesn't bother me – it never has. I swear a lot. Many have likened my choice of language to that of a truck driver or sailor, while others have noted that such comparisons are insulting to truck drivers and sailors. Perhaps I shouldn't swear as much as I do. A great Raiders tackle, Lincoln Kennedy, thought as much. Hearing me speak, he'd shake his head and laugh. He once told my mother and father after a game that he would like to work with them in an effort to clean up my language. They laughed and my father told him that they'd given up long ago.
There was one occasion when Al discussed swearing in front of a woman – or at one – that is particularly special to me.
We were hosting a meeting at our offices. Shortly after our guests arrived, and as a few of us were conversing with them, Al joined us. When he noticed that one of the visitors was a woman, he explained to her – and to the entire group, as all of the guests were listening to him – that he tried very hard not to swear in front of women. He apologized in advance if that were to happen.
Well, I began making overly dramatic, incredulous faces and looked from one coworker to another. They smiled back knowingly. Al then proceeded to explain to our female guest and her colleagues that while he might sometimes slip and swear in front of a woman, he would never – and did never – swear at a woman.
At that point I stopped dramatizing my incredulity; my escalating facial expressions and body language were organic. I gestured with my hands and the pen I was holding flew out of my grip and landed on the conference table with a thud. Everyone in the room turned to look at me, including Al.
"Well, Amy – I swear at Amy," Al said, "but I don't consider her a woman." I don't consider her a woman. Think about that. He didn't consider me a woman. Isn't that the goal? Isn't that the hope? To be treated without regard to gender? The moment was even more special than it would otherwise have been because in vintage Al form, he conveyed one of the most spectacular thoughts he could have ever conveyed, in a manner only he could: Oh Amy – I swear at Amy – but I don't consider her a woman.
* * *
I accepted my full-time job with the Raiders in 1987 without knowing what I'd be paid. I was offered a job – I didn't ask about salary or benefits or anything – I just said yes. I walked down the hallway to the office of the managing partner at the law firm at which I was working and I gave notice.
I understand that not everyone has the luxury of accepting a job without taking into account financial considerations and that I thus did something that not everyone is able to do. I am not unaware of or insensitive to that reality. I was newly married and my husband and I were living in a roughly 400-square-foot apartment. Although we had financial constraints and obligations, I didn't think about them. I didn't care what I would earn and, as it turned out, I took a very significant pay cut to join the organization.
Some might say that what I did was foolhardy. I don't think it was. I wanted to pursue a dream and it never occurred to me not to accept the job.
Over the course of my career, Al periodically stated that not only should employees – including me – work for free, but that we should pay the organization for the privilege of so doing. It was my distinct impression that he wasn't teasing. No matter whether he was teasing or not, he believed it was a privilege to work for the Raiders, and so did I.
Just as I didn't ask about compensation or benefits before accepting my job, I didn't ask about career path, opportunities for advancement, employee reviews, or anything else that I was asked hundreds of times by individuals I interviewed later in my career.
I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime and I said yes.
At no time from the moment I accepted my job until the day I resigned decades later did I think about about my status or advancing within the organization. I didn't strategize, plan, or worry about my trajectory or next steps. I did my job. I did advance, but I never spent a moment contemplating, considering, or planning how to do so or whether I would.
It bothers me when people take a position already looking to advance. It struck me many times throughout my career that applicants and new employees were focused on advancement from even before they located the restrooms. Rather than focus on advancement, one should focus on doing the best job possible, on working as hard as possible, on working harder than anyone else, and on working harder than one ever thought one could. I was told many times over the course of my career that it was a failing of mine not to strategize for my advancement. I disagree.
Hard work matters. There is something to be said for being the first in and the last out. There is something to be said for doing anything and everything asked and for anticipating and doing anything and everything one can think of, whether asked or not.
On innumerable occasions, employees asked me how they could ultimately attain a position like mine, whether with the Raiders or another organization. I would often respond by asking, "Do you notice that when you get here in the morning, my car is already here? Do you notice that when you leave at night, my car is still here?" Most often that response was met with a blank stare. My words didn't resonate.
Do your job. Work hard. Work harder than you ever thought possible. Then work harder.
* * *
Many people know about Al's history, but not everyone does. Taking into account both his on- and off-field contributions, there may not have been a greater pioneer in the history of the National Football League. On the field, Al helped revolutionize the passing game, and he remains the only person to be an assistant coach, head coach, general manager, commissioner, and owner in the league. Off the field, Al also did revolutionary things. He refused to allow his teams to play in segregated cities, and he was inclusive in all regards, providing opportunities for many who had not previously been afforded such opportunities. Al hired, advanced, fired, and swore at people for decades without regard to race, religion, ethnicity, or gender. I am a beneficiary of Al's vision and openness.
There have been and still are many harsh criticisms of Al, some of which are quite fair, but even his most ardent detractors cannot, with a shred of intellectual honesty, question his record with respect to diversity and inclusiveness.
He was brilliant and tenacious, and we'd argue constantly. He was creative and combative, and we'd argue constantly. He was caring and infuriating, and we'd argue constantly. He was also funny.
At times his humor was dry and caustic and at times it was relaxed and silly, but it was always appropriate and well timed. There was one joke Al loved to tell and those who knew him knew it well: the Yum Yum Dog Food joke. Although I heard it countless times over many decades, sometimes in private settings and sometimes when he shared it publicly, I laughed each time, not so much at the joke, but at how much he enjoyed telling it.
A large number of sales representatives of a dog food company were gathered at an annual company meeting at which the president of the company was speaking. As he concluded his remarks, he built to a crescendo:
"Ain't we got the best damn dog food?" he asked the assembled employees.
"Yes," they cheered.
"Ain't we got the best damned sales representatives?" he next asked.
"Yes," they cheered.
"Ain't we got the best damned company?" he then asked.
"Yes," they cheered, now standing.
"Then why ain't we selling any dog food?" he asked.
"It's the dogs," one employee said. "They don't like it."
Al loved that joke.
* * *
"Aw fuck" was Al's most frequent response to anything and to everything. He used this expression to convey anger, disgust, frustration, exasperation, compassion, affection, disinterest, and many other sentiments.
On one particular occasion, Al was sharing with a few of us his views as to what we should state publicly about a particular issue. I thought that he was utterly wrong, so I said, in a friendly yet sarcastic tone, "We'll get you your own Twitter account – you can tweet that yourself."
A moment later, a message appeared on my phone – one of my coworkers who was also in the meeting sent me an email that he would immediately register @awfuck for Al's official Twitter account. If anyone should have owned that account, it should have been Al. Then, he could "twit," which is how he referred to tweets when we spoke of them.
* * *
Al had a number of other standard phrases:
"You don't know what the fuck you're talking about." If I had the proverbial dollar for every time Al told me that, I would be able to buy a team, or build a stadium, or both. This was Al's very clear, very straightforward manner of telling me I was wrong, which he did a lot.
"You miss the point." This was another phrase Al used to tell me that I was wrong. For decades I told people that were ever I to write a book, I would title it You Miss the Point, since he said that to me so often.
"Oh fuck him." This was Al's standard response when I shared with him that someone didn't agree with a position we had taken, that someone in the league office had communicated that we could not do something he wished, that someone was critical of the organization, or that someone had written or otherwise reported something unfavorable about the organization. Often, "Oh fuck him" was followed by some sort of additional insight, directive, or sarcastic observation or comment.
"You see it that way; I don't see it that way." I heard that a lot because we didn't see a number of things the same way.
"What I'm tryin' to find out." That was Al's not-so-subtle way of telling me that he wasn't interested in what I was saying, that he didn't like what I was saying, that he didn't want me to waste any more of his time, or all of those things.
"You're so negative." I heard this any time I pointed out flaws in a position he wished us to advance, offered reasons a plan might fail, or disagreed with his logic or reasoning.
"It's part of life; it's what you're dealing with." Part was pronounced "paht," of was pronounced "a," and life was pronounced "lahf." It's paht a lahf. That was Al's way of telling me that I had to accept something, whether I wished to or not. Al and I periodically debated whether we must accept something or not.
"You know how you are with words." I once asked him if that was his commentary on the precise manner in which I speak – he said fuck a few times, and then said, "Obviously."
"You're screw loose." That is how Al told me that he thought that something I said – or that I – was nuts.
Al had interesting ways of offering encouragement. "Hey, I didn't ask you to try, I told you to get it done." He said that to me the very first time he asked me to complete an assignment. One day during my first month or so with the organization, Al called me into his office and asked me to do something. When we finished our conversation, I said to him that I would try my best and as I stood up to leave, Al responded: "I didn't ask you to try, I told you to get it done." He was neither impressed by nor interested in my commitment to try; he wanted it done. Message received.
Also by way of encouragement, Al regularly offered what I referred to as his covered wagon story. "When those covered wagons got to the Rockies, Trask," he said, "most stopped, but some of those people were tough and made it through to the other side." He didn't want me to try; he wanted me to get my covered wagon through the Rockies.
"And try not to fuck it up." Al periodically offered that sage advice when he asked me to undertake a project. I believe that I started this tradition as it was I who first said to him, "I'll try not to fuck it up" after he asked me to do something.
Another favorite of his: "You must be slow, mentally." Only "mentally" was pronounced "ment'ly" – two syllables, not three. "You must be slow, ment'ly." Or, when he was speaking of someone else: "He must be slow, ment'ly."
"That guy, huh." When Al referenced, or when we spoke of, someone he did not respect or did not like, his common refrain was, "That guy, huh." He said it in a tone dripping with derisiveness.
"Fuckin' coaches" was another expression Al used quite often. Al and I began our first conversation the day after each game with a discussion of it. Whether we won or lost, Al always had some choice words for our coaches. There were more such words when we lost, of course. As we spoke of play calls, coaching decisions, player performance, in-game situations, and clock management, Al would routinely mutter, "Fuckin' coaches."
One time, when speaking with Al the morning after we lost a game, I commented on our special teams play and asked him if he agreed with my assessment that this was the primary reason we lost. He did agree and muttered "fuckin' coaches" a few times, referring to the special teams coordinator and the assistant special teams coach. I went on to ask him why we had chosen to block (or, really, not block) in a certain manner on our field-goal and extra-point attempts, since several of them were blocked. Al noted that he too wondered that (he didn't say it that politely, though) and that he had asked the special teams coordinator that very question. He then explained that the special teams coordinator told him why he thought our blocking scheme – in which we left one player on the opposing team unblocked and unaccounted for – would work. Al sort of shouted and sort of wailed, "Who asked him to think?"
Fuckin' coaches, who asked them to think.
Early in my career, many stadiums didn't have suites for the visiting owner. In those instances, Al watched from the visiting team section of the press box and I watched the game near him. (I didn't watch home games or road games in which there was a private area for him, with him. Well, not the entirety of those games; in those instances, I saw him prior to kickoff, during the game if I needed something from him or he needed something from me, and after the game.)
Excerpted from You Negotiate Like a Girl by Amy Trask, Mike Freeman. Copyright © 2016 Amy Trask and Mike Freeman. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Al 12
Chapter 2 Behavior Problem 28
Chapter 3 Get the Coffee 38
Chapter 4 Mom 60
Chapter 5 "I Understand" 74
Chapter 6 "She's Not a Girl, She's a Raider" 82
Chapter 7 Get the Sandwiches 92
Chapter 8 Sharia Law 112
Chapter 9 To Thine Own Self Be True 130
Chapter 10 The Higgins Boat 156
Chapter 11 That Baby's Going to Canton 166
Chapter 12 Counterclaim 188
Chapter 13 Championship Game 194
Chapter 14 It Was a Fumble 206
Chapter 15 I Quit 214
Chapter 16 He Wouldn't Let Us Lose 234
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book highlights Amy's passion for the team, her love of the Raider Nation and her unwavering support of her mentor Al Davis. I am thrilled this book will allow others to see the world through Amy's eyes. A must read for Raider fans past, present and future. Amy is a true Raider Legend.