Chief Zee (July 7, 1941-July 19, 2016)

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Chief Zee (July 7, 1941-July 19, 2016)

Post by Cowboy1959 on Thu Aug 18, 2016 10:28 am



Zema Williams, who was better-known to NFL fans everywhere as “Chief Zee”, the Washington Redskins' superfan, died in his sleep last night. He was 75 years old.

His death brings an end to his nearly 40-year role as unofficial mascot of the Redskins, which began in 1978 when he attended the Cowboys-Redskins game at RFK Stadium in full costume, featuring a large feathered headdress and a small toy tomahawk. Over the years he was a regular part of the pageantry at Redskins games at home and, often, on the road.

A good-natured, ardent Redskins fan, Chief Zee was a friendly—if partisan—presence and became known around the country from his frequent appearances on TV broadcasts of Redskins games. Most notably, he maintained a long-running “feud” with Wilford “Crazy Ray” Jones, the Dallas Cowboys’ longtime unofficial mascot. They would stage mock “Cowboys and Indians” battles for the cameras on the sidelines during timeouts, with one or the other emerging “victorious” depending on which team was at home. Crazy Ray always won at Texas Stadium, while Chief Zee protected his house at both RFK Stadium and, later, at FedEx Field.

Chief Zee’s relationship with Crazy Ray wasn’t just for the cameras, however. They forged a decades-long friendship, visiting each other’s homes during the annual home-and-home series that ended only with Crazy Ray’s death in 2007.

So deep was their friendship that Chief Zee missed the Redskins’ season opener in 2007—one of only 4 games he claimed to have missed in 28 seasons—to attend a ceremony honoring Ray at Texas Stadium before the Cowboys’ season opener.

Zema Williams started his life as a sharecropper picking cotton in his home state of Florida before becoming a truck driver. He was drafted in 1960 and served two years in the military at Fort Riley, Kansas. After his discharge he went back to driving trucks, and in the latter part of the ’60s he was a car salesman in Washington, D.C.

His first appearance as “Chief Zee” came about by happenstance. After being invited to a game by a friend who was a season-ticket holder (and a Cowboys fan), Williams rented a headdress and bought a tomahawk and spent the game “chopping” on his friend purely for his own amusement. But his spirit and enthusiasm entertained his fellow fans, and a legend was born.

Chief Zee seemed to make friends everywhere, delighting fans and non-fans alike with his costume and his antics. In 2000, he won a nationwide contest for the best fan of each team, sponsored by VISA. His reward was to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, in a special section commemorating NFL fans around the league.

He was especially popular with children and was always kind and obliging to them. He made numerous public appearances for charity over the years, considering himself not so much a fan of the Redskins as a “fan of the Redskins' fans”. In a 2007 interview he marveled at the fact that there are many homes in the D.C. area where photographs of him with different generations of the same family are displayed.

There were exceptions to the generally warm reception he received from fans of opposing teams, however. The most notorious came in the Veterans Stadium parking lot in 1983. After a 23-13 loss to the Redskins by the Philadelphia Eagles, disaffected Eagles fans leaving the stadium showed their disdain for his bantering during the game by physically assaulting him and, as the story goes, throwing him into a dumpster. He sustained a broken leg and a serious eye injury as a result.

Although he never returned to Philadelphia for a game, Chief Zee soldiered on and became a beloved fixture in Redskins Nation and around the NFL. And while he may have been overshadowed by the “Hogettes” during the Joe Gibbs era of the 1980s and early '90s, he still retained a large share of affection from the Washington fans. So beloved was he that, in the last years of his life, as he struggled to get by on his Social Security check and faced eviction after he got behind in his rent, fans contributed to a GoFundMe page to assist him in paying off his debt. And when his health failed and he had difficulty walking, Redskins owner Dan Snyder purchased a motorized scooter to help him get around.

We will not see him on TV during Redskins games anymore, but he appeared on broadcasts during many games over his career, and in NFL Films recaps of the Redskins’ seasons. And he will undoubtedly live on in the hearts and memories of Redskins fans everywhere.

The D.C. government honored Chief Zee with his own day on November 7, 1985. It would seem appropriate for them to designate a similar day in his honor on September 12th, when the Redskins open their season against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football.

R.I.P., Chief Zee. Even for us Cowboys fans you were one of a kind.



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Cowboy1959

Join date : 2016-08-16
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