If sub­ject is Simp­son, truth can be tough to tackle

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - MA RK KISZLA Den­ver Post Colum­nist

O.J. Simp­son humbly took a seat, seek­ing noth­ing more than his free­dom, be­cause jus­tice is for those of us naive enough to think the truth mat­ters.

Back in the day, when the Juice was loose on the foot­ball field, Simp­son was the most fa­mous No. 32 in sports. As he sat Thurs­day in a Ne­vada cor­rec­tional fa­cil­ity, he was in­mate No. 1027820.

The chair­woman of the pa­role board that would de­cide whether to re­duce his 33-year sen­tence for rob­bery be­gan by read­ing de­tails of Simp­son’s case. “We have you as male, and we have that you very re­cently turned 90 years old,” Con­nie Bis­bee said, be­fore promptly cor­rect­ing her mis­take. “I’m sorry about that. You look great for 90.”

“Feels like it, though,” replied Simp­son, the laugh lines show­ing in his 70-year-old face. O.J. was in a for­giv­ing mood. He par­doned Bis­bee’s mis­take. And the four pa­role com­mis­sion­ers unan­i­mously voted to set him free, as early as Oct. 1.

Walk­ing away from the hear­ing, Simp­son raised his hands over his head in vic­tory, ex­claim­ing: “Oh, God, oh!”

Was jus­tice served? There might be folks ahead of you in line at the cof­fee shop who would ar­gue Simp­son should have died in prison as pun­ish­ment for rob­bery, be­cause he got away with the 1994 mur­ders of Ni­cole Brown Simp­son and Ron Gold­man.

But if watch­ing Simp­son all these years has taught us any­thing, it is that truth and jus­tice are sel­dom black and white, al­though the ver­dict of­ten re­veals much about the white-and-black di­vide in Amer­ica. Simp­son was found not guilty of mur­der by a jury of his peers, the same as Tulsa, Okla., po­lice of­fi­cer Betty Shelby was ac­quit­ted in May of

gun­ning down un­armed Ter­ence Crutcher in cold­blood on video. Maybe truth and jus­tice is in the eye of the be­holder.

I con­fess to be­ing mes­mer­ized at the sight of Simp­son thank­ing the pa­role board for his free­dom, just as I dared not miss a play when he car­ried the foot­ball 38 times against Notre Dame way back in 1967.

When the sub­ject is O.J., it’s im­pos­si­ble to stick to sports. He will for­ever be big­ger than foot­ball, less known as a Hall of Fame run­ning back than a black man in a white Bronco, forc­ing us all to watch, squirm­ing with the un­easy knowl­edge jus­tice is never blind to is­sues of race that will take far more than 50 years to over­come.

Simp­son won the Heis­man Tro­phy at the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, rushed for 2,003 yards in a 14-game NFL sea­son, played a star­ring role in both “Naked Gun” and a made-for-TV crim­i­nal trial of the cen­tury, along the way in­spir­ing two phrases deeply etched in our cul­tural his­tory: “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must ac­quit” and “Go, O.J. Go.”

We all scream for jus­tice, while most of us si­lently pray for what­ever ver­dict serves us best. Maybe we can’t stop look­ing at Simp­son, be­cause he re­flects what­ever we want to see in Amer­ica. If the coun­try has in­deed moved into the post-truth era, the con­cepts of guilt and in­no­cence are mere tri­fles.

In the same year O.J. cut, hes­i­tated and burst 64 yards through the UCLA de­fense for a touch­down in­stantly can­on­ized as “The Run,” there were ri­ots in the streets of Detroit. Fifty years later, the pres­i­dent of the United States wants to build a wall to help make Amer­ica great again. While Simp­son has run for touch­downs, through air­ports and from the law for five decades, maybe our coun­try hasn’t moved as far as we’d like to think.

Will jus­tice in Amer­ica ever be col­or­blind?

Not in Simp­son’s life­time. Not in mine. Here’s hop­ing there’s hope for you.

Go, O.J. Go.

When the truth doesn’t suit us, the eas­i­est path is to turn and run.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.