Ickey woods is about to do something crazy. Thirteen days before the Super Bowl, 24 hours after leading the Cincinnati Bengals to the AFC championship and less than 2½ days before he has to be back in Cincy for practice, he's light-footing it onto a jet bound for Fresno, Calif.
It makes no sense—after spending a little less than 48 hours in California, he'll have to fly all night to be back at work in Cincinnati by 9 a.m.—but Woods just has to get back and kick it with his home boys, to transport to Fresno the glory he has wrought, to try it out, like buying a new hat and hurrying home to see it in the bedroom mirror.
But halfway there—somewhere over Kansas—Woods starts to fret. What worries him isn't seeing his mother or his six aunts or his mortician uncle. It's seeing the home boys, his old gang cohorts, the Godfathers, a spin-off of the huge L.A. Bloods gang. "There's nothing left for me in Fresno but trouble," he says. "A lot of my friends are on the pipe [smoking crack] now. Some of them, they got all brown teeth, real skinny, look like nothing. Some of them used to play football real well, but they got into selling that dope, making that fast money and....
"Sometimes you hate to go back. Everybody's trying to ride my jock [to exploit my success] now. And when you try to keep movin', they're like, 'Oh, you think you're too good for us now, Home. You think you're too this and you think you're too that.' I don't have time for that now."
Could these be his home boys, his podnahs from the 'hood he had so much fun with in high school? The ones he would walk the mean streets with until somebody hollered, "Yo! Here comes ol' One-Time!" when they would take off running?
One-Time was what the home boys called the police because everybody knew you could beat the cops a million times, but all they have to do is beat you one time.
You like Woods' quick feet now? You should have seen them then. "I never got arrested," he says. "If you could catch me, you were doing something good." Didn't matter if he had done something or not, he would run just the same. Besides, a good percentage of the time, he had done something.
Ickey and the home boys didn't do crack and they never carried guns, though some of them, including Ickey sometimes, wore red Bloods rags sticking out of their back pockets, identifying them as kin to that notorious group. It did get pretty crazy, beating people up, breaking into cars and homes—"rippin' and runnin'," as they called it.
They didn't do much with the proceeds except buy cases of beer. "We just did it for the fun and games," Woods says. "Car stereos. Or going into houses when nobody was home. Most places we broke into, somebody had left the windows cracked. Or some people would just go off and leave the door open. The types of neighborhoods we vandalized, they were the types of neighborhoods where people thought you could leave the door open."
Ickey's mother, Sylvia Taylor, had taken him to places like that when he was a kid. She would pack her whole welfare family—Ickey, his older brother, Rodney, and his younger brothers, Al, Cameron and Leonard, and his younger sister, Starr—into the car, take them to the nicest houses in town, the ones along Van Ness Extension, and say, "Someday, if you work hard, you can have this too."