O. J. Simpson signed a "total management contract" two weeks ago with an Indianapolis organization called Sports Headliners, Inc., whose president, Charles M. (Chuck) Barnes, says, "O.J. is a million-dollar property. Hopefully, he'll do even better than Jean-Claude Killy."
Barnes was talking about money, not yardage or slaloms. Killy, the triple gold-medal winner from the Winter Olympics, has cashed in big with endorsements, commercials, TV appearances and the like. "O. J. has an advantage that Killy doesn't have," Barnes says. "He'll be playing football every week, and that will keep him in front of the public more."
Every week, eh? Well, now. The Buffalo Bills get first pick in the pro football draft next Tuesday, and their choice almost certainly will be Simpson. O.J. has indicated that Buffalo is not the town nor the AFL the league that he prefers. "O.J. doesn't have anything against Buffalo," Barnes hurried to point out, "but you have to go where there is the best advantage to you and your family. If things don't go as well as we feel they should in our negotiations, the pro draft system might be tested in court. It's very unlikely that it will come to that, but it could happen."
All sorts of rumors have had Buffalo making complex deals to get O.J. to a team that he will accept. But Ralph Wilson, who owns the Bills, says, "We are definitely going to draft Simpson, and we have no intention of using him as trade bait, even if another team were to offer us seven players for him. His alternatives are to skip to the Canadian league and be blacklisted by the AFL and the NFL, or to sit out all playing activity until he makes a contractual arrangement.
"I have very high hopes that he will play for us. I've met Simpson, and he's one of the nicest people you'd ever want to know. He's got a fine sense of humor. He said to me, ' Mr. Wilson, I had a nightmare the other night. I woke up all hot and clammy. I dreamt I had been drafted by Buffalo.' I laughed, but I said, I had a nightmare myself, O.J. I dreamt we drafted you and we signed you, and you were a big flop.' "
One of the recent storms that smothered the Pacific Northwest in heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures left the parking lot outside Portland's Coliseum completely frozen over. Automobiles could not use it, and a Western Hockey League game between Portland and Denver had to be canceled.
Frigid Oregonians reported with some pride that it was the first time ever that a hockey game had to be postponed because of ice.