Yesterday, OJ Simpson was paroled after nine years in prison for his part in an armed robbery. While watching some of the coverage last night, I saw a man say that he thought race was the primary factor behind the public’s continued interest in OJ, but I don’t agree.
I was a little boy when OJ Simpson was running all over the fields of the AFC East and the rest of the league. As is often the case with youngsters, the player I thought was playing the game better than everyone else became my favorite, and that was OJ.
OJ was the best, but he didn’t play on the best teams–The Bills didn’t win one division title in his nine years in Buffalo, and only finished twice two times–so those were lean years for the fans.
Playing on fairly poor teams (He didn’t run behind the best lines and he never had a Pro Bowl quarterback) made me feel sorry for OJ, which meant I liked him that much more.
When he left Buffalo for San Francisco for his final two seasons, I became a 49ers fan as well. I liked two teams equally, and it would never matter which I liked more, unless they played each other.
The Bills’ futility continued through the ’80s, while the Niners won four Super Bowls, so it was easier for me to be a fan of those teams than it was the ones the Bills were fielding.
Then the Bills put together the Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, Joe Cribbs teams, and beginning in 1988, they won the AFC East six out of seven years, finishing second the other. The thing people recall from those years, however, was that they lost four straight Super Bowls.
For a fan, that was hard, and as that era ended, I was a bit soured on the team, and I guess that the 49ers could have been considered my favorite team.
Then came June 17, 1994. I was tending bar at Damon’s in the Park Road Shopping Center in Charlotte, and I had a bunch of regulars in the bar and lounge watching Game 4 of the NBA Finals between the Houston Rockets and the New York Knicks. There was this one really mouthy my woman from Brooklyn, who was pulling for the Knicks obnoxiously, and everyone else was rooting for the Rockets to win, if only to shut her up.
And then NBC interrupted with the breaking news of the white bronco chase. From then on, they split time between the game and the OJ situation.
That’s a good place to leave off; we’ll finish this up tomorrow of the next day.
Much love, many prayers.