Thursday, August 21, 2014

Some Sympathy for O.J.

I know the man is a killer and all, and currently serving time for attempted armed robbery, but hear me out. (Also, if we can have a Stones' song called Sympathy for the Devil, can't we have a little sympathy for a man who is a human being - albeit a very flawed one, but therefore cannot possibly as completely evil as the devil?)

Anyhow, here's the O.J. legend has I understand it: He grew up in San Francisco and ran with a pretty rough crowd as a kid. After a childhood bout with Rickets that led some doctor to tell him he would always be handicapped, he grew into a physical stud and was a star running back in high school. His grades weren't great so he went to a junior college in Los Angeles, where he starred and made JC All-American. He was offered a scholarship to USC - one of the prime national football programs in the heart of Los Angeles, where once again he starred. So, now he's getting national attention, hobnobbing with movie and TV stars in LA, starting to dabble in acting - life is good.

Then he gets drafted by the Buffalo Bills. As you may know I'm a Bills fan, but was this really fair? I mean to take a guy from San Francisco, who went to college in LA and place him in Buffalo - on a terrible team - to start his career. No wonder he went crazy. In no other career but pro sports do you not get to pick the city you want to live and work in after going to college. Would OJ have been happier if he could have played for the LA Rams and stayed near Hollywood and acted part time? Absolutely.

I remember my grandfather, who lived in Dunkirk NY (down the road from Buffalo about a half hour or so) saying OJ couldn't wait to get out of Buffalo when the season ended and back to CA. At the time, (I was like 7) I thought he was a jerk. But now, having been around a bit, I can totally understand. Buffalo is nothing like Southern CA or San Fran. No wonder OJ wanted to get home.

And he was drafted in 1969, which is only a few years after the legendary Bills back Cookie Gilchrist had been complaining about racial prejudice in Buffalo after having played for several years in Toronto. And, as I said, the team stunk. Luckily Lou Saban, who had coached to Bills to some titles in the Gilchrist era, came back to town, recognized OJ's talent and built a team around him. So, from a career standpoint, OJ ended up having success, was loved in Buffalo, and even found time to do some acting in the offseason. But I'm sure this all put a good deal of stress on him that could have been alleviated if NFL rules had just allowed him to stay on the West Coast. I'm not saying all this made him a murderer, but I'm sure it didn't help....On the other hand, maybe if he had stayed in CA with all the crazies, he would have flipped sooner!

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