Chief Zee's Big Weekend
For 27 of the last 28 years, Zema "Chief Zee" Williams has headed to Texas for Dallas Week. He and Wilford "Crazy Ray" Jones would do their thing: car dealership appearances, boys and girls club appearances, game-day appearances, with Crazy Ray chasing after Chief Zee on the sidelines.
"Sometimes I'd let him catch me--'cause I was faster than him--and rough me up, like I'd do him here," Zee told me this afternoon. "It's been a good rival the last 29 years."
Zee is going down to Irving again this weekend: in Sunday morning, and out that night. But Crazy Ray won't be there, having passed away last March, off to the muddy sideline in the sky. Zee skipped the Redskins home opener to help honor Ray this fall, and he'll do the same this weekend, possibly even carrying around a memento of some sort, although he refuses to don any Cowboys garb.
But after this weekend, he's not sure. He stopped going to Eagles road games not long after some Philly fans busted up his leg and knocked his eye out of its socket; " I don't even eat Philadelphia cheese no more," he told me. He stopped going to Giants road games after being pushed down some escalators in '79.
"I don't put myself in danger like that no more," he said. "I'm 66 years old; ain't no more marrow in my bones. Ain't nothing left but dust, and dust don't keep your bones together."
Dallas has been different, because of Ray and the aura of acceptance he granted his rival. Zee's been into Jerry Jones's owner's box, been offered hotel rooms by generations of Dallas management, been welcomed into various corporate suites (he'll be appearing at the Circuit City tent this week). He was back there in March for the memorial service; he took off his headdress, put on a Cowboy hat and let loose with a "Cowboys!!!!" scream. By the time he sat back down, his eyes had welled up.
"I put that Cowboy hat on," he explained. "That's what made me cry."
Ray taught him to do magic tricks, taught him to turn balloons into dogs and bumble bees and swords so he could work the birthday party circuit, taught him how to line up personal appearances to capitalize on his Super Fan status. They toured the parking lots together in Dallas and Washington, signed autographs together, stayed in each others' homes. This weekend, for the first time since 1977, the act will be solo.
"I don't know, it's just a funny feeling, I'm missing something inside," Zee said. "Closer the game time come, I'll start feeling absent." He considered the issue further. "With him not being there, you're gonna have some [fans] that might get tanked up a little bit and might come want to do a little bit more. But I'll have security."
And thank heavens for that. Zee now sells cars for Darcars, stars in Eastern Motors ads and rides around FedEx in a mechanized scooter, what with his amputated big toe. Cur conversation kept turning in different directions; to Santana Moss's two-touchdown Monday Night Football performance in 2005, to the 35-34 loss in '79, to Washington's 9-5 home win in '78, to the real-life hog Zee rented in '83. Amidst these memories, I asked Zee if maybe he'd be okay with Washington dropping just this one game to Dallas. You know, in honor of Ray and all.
"Nooo, it don't make no difference," Zee said. "I'm sorry he's passed, but no, he knows I want to win. He's up there looking down through that hole in Texas Stadium. He know. When I go up to heaven, he'll be chasing me up there, and I'll be chasing him."
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