If subject is Simpson, truth can be tough to tackle
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.