O.J. Simpson-Part III – O.J. – “Premeditated or Predestined”
By Dave Washington, Jr., Sports Editor
Jackson, MS – Twenty years had passed since those cherished memories of the faithful fans of the Buffalo Bills and my tenure as a player there. The year was 1993, and all sights were again set on Buffalo. This time, it was a reunion to celebrate the then favorite son of Buffalo, O.J. Simpson, and the famed “Electric Company.” Twenty years that had taken me from Buffalo to the San Francisco 49’ers, with Head Coach Dick Nolan, who had a short reign there until moving on to the New Orleans Saints. His short tenure gave way to Head Coach Monte Clark. Coach Clark brought respectability back to the 49’ers; by building a defense that leads the National Football League in sacks in 1976.
In 1976 my Pro Bowl year, things seemed to be looking up for the team, me and my family. We were able to continue our role as chapel leaders in San Francisco; in that capacity, my responsibilities entailed securing the venue for chapel service at the hotel we stayed in on road games. I also made sure we had a quality speaker for the service. During an away game to Cleveland, to play the then Cleveland Browns, I was elated to learn that Mr. Edward Joseph DeBartolo, Sr., (new 49’ers owner) would attend the service. The DeBartolo Family, shopping center developers, based their operations out of Youngstown, Ohio. As I arranged the chairs in the front of the room the door opened and one of four men entered the room and proceeded around the wall to the right, the second moved cautiously guarded around the room to the left. Each posted to my right and left, hands crossed comfortably yet relaxed atop the wool/cashmere blend long top coats they each adorned. A nod of the head from the gentleman to my left ushered in Mr. Joe DeBartolo who sat in the back left corner as the third and fourth gentleman of what I then concluded bodyguards posted up on either side of the back wall. Yet a fifth guard was stationed at the door which was closed and attended by the guard. I was allowed to meet Mr. Joe DeBartolo after chapel and I thanked him for coming and he commented “good job”. My on field heroics gained me favor (good job) with my teammates and coaches during the 1977 season. I had started 9 games collected two interceptions with 68 total return yards and well on my way to another stellar All Pro – Pro Bowl season. Unfortunately, I sustained a season-ending injury in the ninth game of the season vs the New Orleans Saints at the Super Dome. Despite my lost, the team looked favorably toward the upcoming 1978, football season.
Little did any of us know that negotiations for the trade of O.J. Simpson from the Bills to the 49’ers had begun? The trade of O.J. was not a premeditated act by the 49’ers because research indicated the deal was made in less than three days. Thus, setting in motion what could only be deemed predestined; O.J.’s arrival to the west coast and my departure from San Francisco. Ironically, O.J. was traded after knee surgery and me after a non-surgical hip injury. Did I see the hand-writing on the wall? Maybe!!! – O.J.’s deal (trade) closed on March 25, 1978, and my trade and contract transfer closed on April 26, 1978. Coincidence or causation, (friend or foe) the juries are still out, but remember Romans 8:28, from Part II – : “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose”.
Rich Stadium was a buzz in 1993, as the “Electric Company” returned to Buffalo, to celebrate the aura of the O.J. era. The festivities were well planned there were dinners, luncheons, brunches and then there was game day. The Buffalo Bills vs the Miami Dolphins, September 26, 1993, ten months prior to the infamous date of June 12, 1994. This date marks the death date of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. A crime O.J. Simpson was accused of and acquitted of by a Court of Law in Los Angeles, CA.
Saturday, September 25, 1993, the 1973-74, Bills playoff team featuring the “Electric Company” attended one of those luncheons at a local Orchard Park restaurant. “Premeditated or Predestined”, I found myself sitting across the table from O.J. with my Co-Chaplin Robert James to my right. Absent from the table at the moment of my finger in the face of O.J. was his “Fav Five”, “Three Amigos”, and even “Two of a Kind”. It was a staunch encounter with the reality that one person cared enough and was bold enough to say to Orenthal James Simpson, that Jesus loved him and had a plan for his life, that he needed to get his life together. Nine months 14 days to the horrific deaths of Nicole and Ron.
Sunday, September 26, 1993, the game plan that was presented to the 1973-74, team was all the players would be introduced at half time and we were to run out of the tunnel to the middle of the field. The “Electric Company” conjured up the idea to run the play that got O.J. the 2003 rushing yardage record (47 toss power trap). This play was reminiscent of the old Green Bay power sweep only with a toss instead of a hand-off. Opposition abounded before we hit the field. The “Electric Company” was confident Reggie McKenzie and Joe DeLamielleure would be able to pull as the play was designed. They had no doubt Joe Ferguson could get the toss to O.J. but there was one glaring problem. Would O.J. be able to move anywhere close to the Juice of 1974, effortlessly, poetry in motion, slicing fluidly past would be tacklers; that was the dilemma. No one wanted the “Electric Company” to look any less than “Electric” even twenty years later. The plea that came from the “Electric Company” was “Juice” get your cripple “A_ _” in gear and run the play. “Premeditated or Predestined – “Elementary My Dear Watson”. In words often erroneously attributed to Sherlock Holmes.
Part IV – “O.J. – The Jury Is In – How the Team Voted”
Dave Washington, Jr., played linebacker in the NFL for 11 years. He is also Sports Columnist for local Mississippi weekly Newspapers, contributing writer for National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), sportsblog.com and columnist for several on-line News/Sports media and Editor Proplayercompanies.com/media. www.davewashington.com.