There has been a resurgence of interest in the OJ Simpson story. It has been more than 20 years since his acquittal of murder charges and the after-story of it all has him serving the back end of a prison sentence in Nevada, likely to be released in another year or two.
A cable channel had a critically acclaimed mini-series titled The People vs. OJ Simpson, which I do admit to watching completely. What interests me more about the whole thing is the response to those who either were not born or who are just too young to have experienced that whole event. To see it now on television they really have no idea how long that saga went on and how absorbing it was for everyone.
For me, the OJ thing was something a personal tragedy.
OJ was a hero of my youth. I wasn’t a Buffalo Bills fan by any stretch but whenever OJ had the ball I had to watch. And when he became a 49er, even though it was at the end of his career when his skills were clearly declining, I was over-the-top.
But OJ went beyond football. He was on TV a great deal. He acted. He did commentary. And he competed in other types of shows, like the celebrity competition shows that were so popular back in the day. OJ was a first rate celebrity in my eyes. Not a John Wayne type, who was a movie star. OJ was a real person who dabbled in all kinds of famous and I really, really liked him.
The documentaries and films coming out today — and, of course, the Trial of the Century — all pursue themes of racism and being black in America.
All that may have a place or not in telling the OJ story.
But it had no place for me at the time. And it certainly didn’t seem to affect OJ from where I was sitting. The fact that he was black just wasn’t something thought about. He was famous. That was all that mattered.
Years later, as a married man with children, I watched the OJ trial with the same morbid curiosity and horror that everyone else did.
The startling details of how he beat his wife were so far removed from the OJ I knew. The image cultivated of him on television and crafted through a magical NFL career clashed harshly with every detail shared in the media and on trial.
In a way, it was a coming-of-age thing for me.
Still, when it came to watching OJ go through all that he did during his arrest and trial I freely admit rooting for the guy.
When he was in that white Bronco I wanted him to get away. When it came time to read that verdict I wanted him to be “not guilty”.
And when it was, I watched in stunned silence, by myself, not believing what I just witnessed. The Bills winning the Super Bowl would have been less of a surprise, in my mind, than OJ winning over that jury.
Two people died. They were brutally murdered. And STILL I wanted OJ to be “not guilty”.
As I’ve pondered that I have to admit beating myself up a bit.
OJ is real life is a monster. And that was hard for me to admit of a boyhood icon. The blood of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman screams from the ground for justice.
I cannot escape that.
But it taught me a lesson in the power of modern media and the lie of sports, entertainment, and really, celebrity, that has always been a part of my existence.
How many other cultivated personalities are in reality monsters, just like OJ? Perhaps many. Probably many.
In all, the past 25 years of my exposure to OJ Simpson has been like watching a slow death. The first half of my life saw him rise from obscurity and sail to heights of admiration in my mind. The 2nd half of my life has been watching the air leak out of that balloon ever so slowly to the painful point where OJ is just lower than dirt.
I realize that I will probably live to see OJ released from prison and I will witness — via the media, of course and always — however this sad tale ends.
Will OJ admit to the murders? Will he find another way to profit from them? Will he himself be murdered or will he commit suicide? There are so many terrible thoughts associated with OJ still.
In the end, I will be like I have always been. A mere spectator — just someone casting judgment between the commercials.
The lessons of OJ’s life are, in the end, for OJ.
The lessons for me are from my observations of it all — and taking harsh inventory of my feelings.
I still want OJ to overcome in some way. That’s how likable the guy is — or was — in my mind.
He stands at odds with everything I believe. That makes me feel more sorry for him than angry.
I understand the anger of the families of his victims. And I wish I could afford for them some measure of good memory like I have of OJ.
But they weren’t famous. They didn’t have that smile. That charm. That connection.
The adult me clashes with the kid me with all this. I’ve long since left being a kid.
And the adult me condemns OJ. Harshly. Absolutely. Completely. Finally. And sadly.
I’d really like the movies and documentaries about OJ to stop.
In a way, I think it glorifies him. I think it is damaging to the memory of those who lost their lives because of him.
I recognize there is money to be made and interested to be drummed up by this most Hollywood of stories. That car-wreck quality isn’t off this story yet.
But really what is there left to talk about? What is there left to learn?
Let OJ died already.