I can’t believe what I’m seeing. I really can’t. Here we are, July 20th, 2017, and O.J. Simpson is the top story. What’s the reason? Did he finally die? No, just his parole hearing. His parole hearing is being broadcast on ESPN. No, really, it is.
There’s a parole hearing on ESPN. And it’s not like they’re the only ones covering it, either. It’s on every news station. On every website. Go on Twitter and it’s all anyone can talk about. And I just can’t wrap my mind around it. He’s an NFL legend, sure, but he played in the 70s. He killed his wife and her brother (allegedly) and was the centerpiece of the most fervently covered trial of all time. That was over twenty years ago. When O.J. was put on trial for murder, the Patriots had been to one Super Bowl in their history. Think about that. That’s how long ago O.J. did anything relevant. But he’s still on my TV screen. Every year there’s a new O.J. documentary. Every year someone comes out with a new book claiming to have a new angle on the cultural importance of the trial, but it’s always the same thing. Seemingly every three months we have to talk about O.J. goddamn Simpson and what it all means. This is all going to happen again when he get out in a few months. People still care about O.J. and I just don’t get it. Why? Why the hell does he still matter? Why can’t he just go away?
He’s not the only person to ever kill anybody, you know. Aaron Hernandez killed a billion people and his trial came and went in an instant. Randall Woodfield played in the 70s, but unless you’ve got a very in-depth knowledge on serial killers, you’ve probably never heard the name before. There have been countless CSI/Criminal Minds-type serial killers who never had the media heyday as the Juice, and most of them killed dozens more people than O.J. did. Sure O.J. was more famous and more charismatic and all that, but what he did wasn’t so remarkably heinous or viscous or depraved that it needs to be talked about almost 25 years later. I don’t need Bob Ley and Jeremy Schaap to pop up on Sportcenter every few weeks to talk about O.J. for hours on end. I really don’t. It’s all so boring to me. Make it go away.
I was two years old when O.J. (allegedly) murdered his wife. I’m not sure my dad even knew what the phrase “a glimmer in his father’s eye” even meant when O.J. was in the NFL. I literally have no emotional connection to him whatsoever. I get that the people that were actually alive during O.J. mania still hold on to memories of his playing days, his movies, or the trial. But, please, let it go. Let him fade into oblivion. I can’t take yet another documentary. I shudder at the thought of more mind-numbingly boring discussions about how O.J. is just a mirror for our society at large. New flash everyone, he’s not. He’s just a guy that killed his wife then stole some memorabilia. He’s a piece of shit. Deal with it. This isn’t the 1950s, pro athletes aren’t all straight-laced, All-American role models living the Hulk Hogan “say your prayers, take your vitamins” lifestyle. Grow up. I think part of the reason the trail blew up so much was that all the old sportswriters had to deal with the fact that one of their favorite athletes, a guy they looked up to, turned out to be not that great of a guy. The vast, VAST, majority of pro athletes should not be role models. They don’t care about you, they don’t care about how much your stupid kid loves them, they don’t care about your fantasy team, none of it. All the people who were so shocked at O.J.’s actions grew up in a time where being a pro baseball player pretty much meant you were everyone’s dad. You were supposed to set an example for all the little kids out there so their actual parents didn’t have to do any of the work. It doesn’t work like that. No pro athlete (with the possible exception of True Yankees) wants anything to do with being a role model. The fact that Charles Barkley even needed to make his famous “I am not a role model” commercial really says it all. Just because they make a lot of money and are on TV all the time doesn’t make them a good person. Know when I learned that? When I saw Roger Clemens throw Mike Piazza’s broken bat back at him in a fit of roid rage. When I saw Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson jump into the stands and start taking fans out left and right. When my favorite baseball player ever (hilariously) took an angry, charging old man by his head and threw him to the ground. When Ugueth Urbina attacked five guys with a machete and poured gasoline on them. When a version of me unused to rigorously parsing through rulebooks and legal documents had to deal with the fact that my Patriots had been accused of filming their opponents. When Ray Lewis obstructed justice (wink wink). When Colt Brennan, the God of Quarterbacking and the Chief Idol of the Brian’s Den, was arrested for DUI. The entire Steroid Era. When my then-favorite player Carmelo Anthony sucker punched Mardy Collins in the heat of a brawl and immediately retreated. When Aaron Hernandez was my favorite football player. I learned pretty quickly to separate the on-field player from the off-the-field person, and I’m better off for it. O.J. represents this big loss of innocence (among other things) for the older generation, but he didn’t have to be. Don’t treat athletes like anything but exactly what they are: athletes. They aren’t role models. They aren’t your brother or father. They’re just people, and if you get seriously disappointed or crushed by their actions, you have no one to blame but yourself.