Any columnist covering this field who failed to note O.J. Simpson’s lamentable change of status from in-it-to-win-it sports-crime competitor to DQ’d resident of High Desert State Prison in Indian Springs, Nevada, would be grossly derelict in his duties. O.J.’s loss will be keenly felt by everyone who follows legal transgressions by athletes. In a way, he has been the Great Satan of America’s sports-crime Inferno, at the lowest concentric ring of Hell.
His recently meted-out nine-to-33-year sentence for kidnapping, armed robbery, and assault with a deadly weapon is, however, also a timely historical landmark. It was 13 years ago, after all, that race relations in the US hit their lowest point since Watts or the Rodney King riots. That’s when O.J. was acquitted of murder, and TV cameras showed live pictures of black America cheering — an image that left white America dumbstruck. After the O.J. trial, both white and black America plunged into a period of tortured soul-searching, with whites slowly coming to grips with the depth of black resentment over centuries of abuse, and black America gradually becoming resigned to the fact that, in O.J., it had picked, as Henry Louis Gates wittily confessed in poetic form, the wrong avenger-hero:
Roses are red
Violets are blue
O.J. did it
And you know it
Thirteen years later, America took a huge step in healing its racial wounds by electing Barack Obama to the presidency — at exactly the moment when O.J. was sent to prison for what might be a life sentence (for a much lesser crime than murder). During his dozen-plus-year sojourn as an unwitting and unwilling national-racial flashpoint, O.J. had been a near-constant source of eyebrow-raising news, living high off his unseizable $400,000 pension in his unseizable Florida home and frequently ending up talking police out of arresting him in late-night and early-hour incidents. These were strange and unlikely times and now they are gone. Looking back, here are the top five moments of O.J.’s 13-year purgatorio:
1) ONE “A” SHORT OF “PARODY” In 2000, huge-tittied O.J. Simpson girlfriend and creepy Nicole Simpson look-alike Christine Prody calls police and accuses O.J. of breaking into her home, taking a letter, and erasing a message on her answering machine. Many domestic-disturbance incidents later, she is hospitalized with what police call a “severe head injury” after she allegedly “falls down” at a gas station in Miami. (No charges are filed.) Between those events, Prody breaks up with O.J. and reveals to the National Enquirer that O.J. had confessed to killing Nicole and Ron Goldman — and then shortly afterward gets back together with him. America thinks: the sex must be awesome.
2) STING AND THE POLICE In 2007, before going with armed men to a Vegas hotel room to retrieve “memorabilia” stolen from his home (including the suit he wore on the day he was convicted), O.J. — and this isn’t a joke — actually contacts the FBI in Los Angeles and pitches to them the idea of setting up an undercover operation to retrieve the goods. Amazingly, O.J. also wants the FBI to cooperate in televising the confrontation. The FBI blows him off. A few weeks later, O.J. and armed posse burst through a door in a Vegas hotel room belonging to the memorabilia collectors, with O.J. shouting, “Think you can steal my shit and sell it?” Upon arrest, he claims he was on a “sting.”