POSTED: 10:44 p.m. HST, Nov 27, 2010
MIAMI — Dolphins receiver Davone Bess figures the long-view moment might hit him as the team bus rumbles toward Oakland Coliseum. Or, as the bus rolls away, "after we win on the way back," he said.
The mind can't help but take that panoramic view when you make a business trip back to where, once, your only business was being a child. That's especially true the first time you do it, as Bess will this weekend in front of a couple of hundred friends and relatives.
That's not an exaggeration — a couple of hundred. Bess is going home this Thanksgiving weekend.
Bess grew up in East Oakland, in full view of what used to be Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The Raiders moved back to their hard-ankle roots after 13 years on the more bullet-heavy side of Los Angeles, when Bess was 10. He had the appropriate silver-and-black merchandise and a favorite Raider, wide receiver Tim Brown.
Despite the proximity, game days didn't mean any more cash flowing into East Oakland via cottage industries. When people think of the Bay Area, they either don't know or prefer to forget about areas like East Oakland.
"People wouldn't want to park in our neighborhood," Bess laughed. "It's not like Green Bay and New England, where people charge other people to park on their lawn. None of that."
Somewhere on that bus ride, memories will come up of friends and acquaintances whose bad decisions knocked off their dreams or lives while still in East Oakland.
Bess' bad decision led to a year of time in juvenile detention for possession of stolen goods that, because of his persistence and the determined help of some others, didn't knock his dream off course. It just ended up on a different course: the University of Hawaii's wide-open offense, then to the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent.
On Sunday, he will return as an integral part of the Dolphins' offense, the Dolphins' most dependable receiver. At this point last year, Bess had 49 catches for 397 yards and no touchdowns. Now, he has 49 catches for 489 yards and three touchdowns and a solid reputation as one of the NFL's best slot receivers.
"I think he's playing with a lot more confidence right now than he did back then," coach Tony Sparano said.
"I left so many plays out on the field the first half of the season," Bess said. "Right now, my focus is to capitalize on every opportunity because you never know when it's coming."
Bess last played in Oakland Coliseum his senior year of high school, as Oakland Skyline High's quarterback in the 2002 city championship game against McClymonds High. He doesn't remember his statistics for the game, but he does remember "we won 47-0. I had the first touchdown."
"It means everything to go back and play in front of my home city," Bess said.