The Long Strange Trip of O.J. Simpson

By Carla Peay
Updated: October 8, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C. — It could only be some type of bizarre cosmic coincidence that former NFL star O.J. Simpson was convicted of a crime exactly 13 years after being acquitted of a different one.

In October of 1995, Orenthal James Simpson was acquitted of the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. In October of 2008, Simpson was found guilty of robbing and kidnapping two sports-memorabilia dealers at gunpoint in a Las Vegas hotel room last year.

Simpson, 61, is scheduled for sentencing on December 5.

Simpson’s lawyers claim that he was simply trying to reclaim property that had been stolen from him when he and five other men forced their way into that Vegas hotel room, but the jury disagreed, convicting Simpson and one other co-defendant on all 12 counts of the indictment.

Simpson’s attorneys plan to appeal, and are already spinning his conviction as payback for his acquittal on murder charges all those years ago, but legal analysts say that winning on appeal is a long shot. This time, Simpson is going to prison.

Unlike the so-called “Trial of the Century” 13 years ago, this case was not must-see-TV. There was no grisly double murder, no low-speed freeway chase, no Dream Team of lawyers. (And does anyone recall that it was the late Johnny Cochran who first coined the now commonly used phrase — rush to judgment — during Simpson’s murder trial?)

It’s a sad irony that a player of such talent and star power on the football field, a Hall of Fame athlete, a man who continued his notoriety in films, commercials, and even a stint in the Monday Night Football booth would see his life take such a tragic turn.

To be acquitted on double murder charges, only to face the possibility of life in prison for trying to steal a few trinkets, perhaps in an effort to grab some tangible reminders of his past glory, is about as bizarre an ending as anyone could imagine.

Poetic Justice? Many certainly believe it is.

“Simpson is finally getting what he deserves”, is the loud and triumphant cry of those who firmly believe that Simpson is guilty of two murders, and are still outraged by the brutal slaying of a pretty blond woman and her Jewish male friend.

But it’s no secret that many in the Black community wondered aloud if the national outrage would have reached the fever pitch it did had the victim been Simpson’s Black first wife, as opposed to his White second wife.

Whether Simpson is finally getting delayed justice, I can’t say. Unlike those who swear by a knowledge they can’t possibly have, I don’t know if Simpson committed those murders all those years ago.

I do know that being ostracized from the White community he tried so hard to identify with seemed to come as a complete surprise to Simpson, and for that, I almost felt sorry for him. The racial divide in our nation remains a deep one, despite the fact that we have nominated a Black man for president.

I was once a fan of O.J. Simpson during his days as a star running back for the Buffalo Bills. But there is a long held saying that fame is fleeting, but infamy lasts forever.

Many who recall the glory days of Simpson’s magnificent football career are afraid to speak of those times, as his legacy off the field has forever tarnished the memories of what he did on the field.

His bust remains in Canton. His name remains in the Buffalo Bills’ Ring of Honor. But in the sad final chapter of Simpson’s legacy, what he ends up becoming is just another incarcerated Black man.