The Juice Is Back, Hopefully Not in a Ford Bronco
Orenthal James Simpson is in the news again. It is a wonder to me how someone who has been out of the public eye for over nine years can garner so much national attention. He is not on trial for a murder. He is not on trial for a robbery/kidnapping. He is simply going to his parole hearing. And yet that simple parole hearing has dominated the media landscape for two days.
I have to admit that I have had very little interest in OJ from the beginning. He played football when I was a kid so I have very little memory of him. I vaguely remember him as the color commentator for Monday Night Football during the 80’s. What I do remember him for was his sixty mile, low-speed chase through Los Angeles. That white Ford Bronco still mocks me today. All I wanted to do was watch the Houston Rockets in their pursuit of Houston’s first major sports championship. It was game five of the NBA championship and the Rockets were playing the New York Knicks. I had waited a lifetime for this, albeit it was only a twenty-five year lifetime, but it was my lifetime. And just like that, the world decided to follow the Ford Bronco instead of the bouncing ball.
The Chase as we simply call it now, dominated television that fateful day. Even ESPN spent its time covering The Chase rather than real sports stories. Did you know that on that day, legendary golfer Arnold Palmer played his last round at the U.S. Open? Did you know that on that day, the World Cup came to Chicago? Did you know the Rangers celebrated winning the Stanley Cup and Ken Griffey Jr. tied Babe Ruth for the most home runs hit before June 30th? No, you did not know that because you, me, and the rest of the world were forced to watch Orenthal drive the highways of Los Angeles. OJ got to listen to the Rockets game in his SUV while I got to listen to reporters trying to make a low-speed police chase sound more exciting than it was. Do I sound bitter?
Years of therapy and I still harbor some resentment towards OJ. If he had waited another hour the game would have been over. If he had waited another hour, my TV would be turned off and my life would be better for not watching that chase. If only he had put on the fake mustache and goatee, taken the nine thousand dollars in cash and called a cab. Then my life would be different, your life would be different and yesterday would not have mattered.
With all this talk of fake news, I only wish the coverage of yesterday’s events would have been fake news. How can someone who has not done much in nine years or contributed much to society in twenty-three years be of such great interest to the world? Are we really that bored? Is there no basketball game to watch or golf to fall asleep to? Doesn’t ESPN have something to cover instead of a parole hearing?
I think our interest then and now says a lot about who we are as a society. Even before social media, we were mesmerized by the lives of the rich and famous. We felt that somehow watching their lives, knowing what dresses they were wearing or what highway they were driving their Bronco down, would impact our lives. We like staring at train wrecks as long as they are not our train wreck.
OJ was and is a train wreck. And instead of watching out of sympathy or in hope that things will turn around for him, I think we watch to see the blood, the glove, and the broken glass. Like Shakespeare, we like a human tragedy. When a famous person suffers, we feel better. When a famous person goes bankrupt we feel just a little bit richer. And when a famous person goes to jail, our mundane lives feel a little freer.
The demise of another should never make us feel better. Watching someone fall to pieces should only work in children’s stories about eggs on walls. So I for one am saddened by the interest in OJ’s parole hearing because I believe most individuals were rooting against him. They wanted him to stay in prison so that for one moment their lives would be better.
Our lives get better when we all get better. This world becomes a better place when you and I root for each other. We are not against each other we are on the same team, humanity. OJ, despite all his mistakes, is still one of us. Black or white, rich or famous, murderer or not, he is still a person. He deserves our help, our love, and our support in this life. I have reason to be upset with him because I lost part of game five of the NBA championship. It might have been part of my life. But I forgive him for that and I hope that his new found freedom will be a chance to start over without all the attention and without a Ford Bronco.