O.J. case still fascinates America

first_imgIt’s been 22 years since O.J. Simpson took off with Al Cowlings in his white Ford Bronco and led officers on a wild slow-speed pursuit around Los Angeles that unfolded on national television like a scene from a movie.Most stories die down and slip away from public memory after a decade or two. This one hasn’t.This year alone, two separate television series — “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” on FX and “O.J.: Made in America,” a five-part documentary on ESPN — have retold the drama surrounding Simpson’s alleged murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman in 1994.After Mike Breen, on the broadcast for ABC, read a promo for the latter during the NBA Finals last week, his partner Jeff Van Gundy let the viewers in on a hard-to-believe story: the Bronco was going so slow because Simpson wanted to listen to the end of Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Knicks and Rockets on the radio. The digression took on a story of its own and whipped social media into a frenzy.There’s obviously something about the O.J. case that still intrigues us today, enough for a 10-episode series and a nearly eight-hour-long documentary to be produced about it in 2016. It was a scandal that involved close to everything — murder, domestic violence, race, police corruption and celebrity — all unfolding in the shadows of Hollywood. The books and scripts practically wrote themselves for authors and filmmakers.The newfound attention cast upon the case has also allowed millennials to learn about and grasp the craziness of the saga. The FX series, while over-dramatized at times, was gripping, binge-worthy and balanced in its portrayal of both the prosecution and the defense. There were moments when I had to look up whether certain scenes were actually true because they were so hard to believe. Did Simpson, played by Cuba Gooding Jr., actually stand up in front of the jury and try on the pair of gloves he allegedly used while committing the murders? Was the prosecution’s star witness — a detective who collected evidence at the crime scene — actually a racist who had been caught on tape using the “n-word” and pled the fifth when asked on the stand if he planted evidence? Did one of the jurors have the audacity to raise a “black power” salute at Simpson after the not guilty verdict was read? And … Robert Kardashian? Really?Yes, yes, yes and yes — though, as an aside, I can’t believe that man fathered everything that is wrong with America today. And as new episodes of the documentary air — all episodes are available on WatchESPN as of Tuesday — you bet there will be the same amount of intrigue in the public.Simpson may currently be serving a lengthy prison sentence for an unrelated crime, but he will forever remain in the public eye for reasons that go far beyond his football accomplishments. When I took my parents to visit Heritage Hall a few months ago and showed them the various Heisman Trophy winners from USC, they could not have been less interested in learning about Reggie Bush, Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Charles White, Mike Garrett or Marcus Allen. But they were more than aware of who O.J. Simpson was and surprised he was once lighting it up for the Trojans, way back when. And while I rarely see people stop by the USC Athletic Hall of Fame plaques that face the track, when they do, they’re almost always looking at Simpson’s.This is a case that still reverberates both nationally and locally. A column written in February by former Daily Trojan sports editor Darian Nourian arguing that USC should remove the replica display of Simpson’s Heisman trophy at Heritage Hall brought a barrage of comments and social media responses. And even more broadly, the question of whether or not O.J. “did it” can still warrant a discussion.Nevertheless, there is mounting evidence that Simpson had a history of domestic violence and that he more than likely committed the murders. And yet, in the year 2016, we are far from done with talking about the case because all of the issues that it brought forth, from race to police corruption, still very much apply today. The possibility of a superstar black athlete being set up for a crime he didn’t commit by a troubled police department would incite the same amount of protests, controversy and media attention today as it did in 1994.That’s why this case remains relevant and why a miniseries and documentary released 22 years later can garner so much acclaim and attention. For better or for worse, we remain captivated by O.J. Simpson, and, at this rate, our children will be too.Eric He is a rising sophomore majoring in print and digital journalism. His column,  “Grinding Gears,” runs Wednesdays.last_img read more