( Yes, I even had my very own O.J. Jersey!)
To this day, I distinctively remember watching in awe as O.J. sliced and diced his way through opposing defenses (ok, maybe a not the best choice of verbs) with such style and grace that I wanted to be just like him. It was amazing to me how O.J. would slowly get up limping after an amazing run which culminated in being slammed to the ground by several opposing defenders. He would gingerly limp back to the huddle, me holding my breath wondering how badly hurt he was, only to have him break off another graceful dash down the sidelines on the next play. Yes, The Juice had special skills.As I'm sure most of us do, I also remember the shocking news of his wife's murder back in 1994, and the infamous low speed chase in the white Bronco. I watched the trial of the century with utter fascination, and heartfelt sadness that a childhood hero of mine had fallen so low. I was also convinced of his guilt, and like most of the people I knew, was equally shocked to hear the not guilty verdict. I still remember that moment vividly. It felt like someone had kicked me in the gut. It was blow to my young notion that in my country justice would always be served.
(photo by bullywhippit)
Now, 13 years later, comes the news that O.J. Simpson has finally been convicted for a separate set of crimes, including kidnapping and armed robbery, stemming from an incident in a Las Vegas casino a year ago in which he attempted to steal some of his own sports memorabilia. With this conviction also comes the word that The Juice could even spend the rest of his life in prison for committing these crimes. Clearly a case of right sentence, wrong crime. Yes, O.J. should be rotting in a jail cell for the rest of his natural life, and you won't find many people who will be shedding tears for this terrible, iconic figure in American pop culture.
It seems odd to me now that as a child I idolized such a morally corrupt person. The fact was, that like most sports stars of those days, I knew a whole lot about O.J. Simpson the athlete, and very little about O.J the man. I do believe that with the proliferation of the media culture of today such disparity of knowledge has narrowed, thus making it easier for those kids today who are looking for a true hero to worship.
As Lukas grows and becomes aware of such things, I will do my very best to keep him from being awed by a high performing athlete's on-the-field accomplishments and automatically putting that person on a pedestal. It will be a fine line I'm sure. I don't want him to lose that sense of wonder and excitement at seeing those amazing feats of athletic prowess, I just want him, in the end, to judge the man's character by what he does off the field or court. Things like how he treats his family, or how he deals with adversity. Those things are the true measure of a man. Not, how fast he can run through an airport, or dodge defenders.
As for O.J., I hope for everyone's sake that this pariah of a man is in fact sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars. He deserves it, if not for this crime, then for the murders he committed all those years ago. It would be a fitting end to a sad chapter in American pop culture history.