Murder on the Orenthal Express

There is no precedent in the annals of American crime for the pile of excrement in which football hero OJ Simpson has landed himself.

Despite our own rich heritage of mass murderers and celebrity villains, British criminal history also has nothing to compare. This is no Lester Piggott tax evasion scandal. A bona fide American sports legend may be on a one-way trip to the gas chamber.

It could only happen in America…

OJ Simpson is the winner of the 1968 Heisman trophy for the most valuable college football player, holder of the record for most yards rushed in a single season, member of the football Hall of Fame, spokesman for Hertz rental cars, respected TV sports commentator, and sometime actor with a regular role as Detective Nordberg in the Naked Gun films.

He is accused of the vicious laying of his ex-wife, Nicole, and her friend, waiter-cum-model Ron Goldman.

The murder weapon, still not recovered, is thought to be a “substantial knife.” So substantial, in fact, that Nicole’s beautiful blonde head was almost severed from her perfect body, her neck sliced through to expose her spinal cord.

The OJ Murders as The National Enquirer calls them, combine some favourite American national pastimes: football, murder and soul-searching. The allegation of a double murder by a genuine American hero and celebrity has truly shocked and unnerved a public fed a daily diet of murder and mayhem.

This American tragedy involves “one of the world’s best-known and best-loved athletes,” according the US media reports. Although a snap survey by the Los Angeles Times of sportswriters in town to cover the World Cup revealed that hardly any of them know who OJ Simpson is, it is a tragedy for the kids and adults who have grown up with Simpson.

He was never known as a prima donna, never charged for his autograph (a despicable custom among American sports figures) transcended the colour barrier and was one of the few football players in the sport’s history capable of turning a game around with his electrifying runs up the field.

Many Americans are having a tough time reconciling the man’s supposed “gentle giant” image with the brutality of his alleged actions. Real life has come and slapped America in the face.

This is not, repeat, NOT a movie.

Before the bizarre events transpired, a scriptwriter pitching the story that unfolded between 12 and 20 June would have been laughed out of every movie studio in the city. No one would touch this far-fetched fantasy with a beloved sports legend as the villain.

It has all the elements, and more, of a classic adventure mystery: murder, escape, wife-beating, the fall from grace of a respected figure, and extramarital affairs, with the buddy angle tossed in for good measure. The problem is, they’re not usually all in the same story.

The real tragedy reads like a comedy of errors. A previous violent act perpetrated by OJ against his wife was almost buried by a judge overly impressed with Simpson’s celebrity and the same media folk now camped outside his house in Brentwood, a posh area on L.A’s West side.

Fallout from the case is widespread. The LAPD, treading carefully after the Rodney King debacle, was accused of going too easy on Simpson because of his celebrity, than for being racist for their subsequent dogged pursuit of him.

The papers are full of agonizing analyses of the fall of yet another black hero and role model, following the ignominious demise of Magic Johnson, Mike Tyson and Michael Jackson. Time magazine has been accused of darkening their cover photo of OJ Simpson’s mugshot, and is denying charges of racism in trying to make him look “blacker”.

At a Ford car dealership in Gainesville, Georgia, some bright spark put a white Bronco on a ramp with a large sign reading “As seen on TV”.

Jane Garcia for Loaded Magazine (August 1994)

"We're All Stories, in the End." ~ Steven Moffat

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