June 17, 2004

Where were you ten years ago today?

I was riveted -- as was most of the nation -- to a surreal scene playing out on NBC.

A split screen showed Game Five of the NBA Finals from Madison Square Garden between the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets on one side of the screen. On the other? A white Ford Bronco on the other side of the continent, making it's way along the freeways of Los Angeles. Inside, OJ Simpson, then the prime suspect in the murder of his wife, Nicole just a few days before in the Brentwood section of LA. Simpson had a gun to his head, and his best friend, Al Cowlings in the other seat trying to talk to him.

OJ wanted to go...somewhere. Ultimately though, he wanted to go home.

OJ Simpson had been a hero to a generation of America, including me. Former football star, movie star, commercial pitchman and sports commentator. The very idea that he could have brutally butchered his estranged wife and her friend was completely foreign to me, as it was to much of the nation.

All we knew was that the scene of a slow-speed chase along the freeways of Southern California was bizarre enough, but for that to sit alongside the basketball game on the opposite side of the screen was one of the most surreal moments of television that had happened before or since.

This was before MSNBC and Fox News Channel even existed. Few people had any idea what CourtTV was, let alone what channel it was on, and CNBC was an obscure business channel. Which left us with images on CNN, ESPN and the bizarre split-screen on NBC.

Of course, now we know where things went from there: the arrest and booking, the assembling of the "dream team" for the "trial of the century." Wall-to-wall coverage of a type that hadn't been seen since Watergate, and wouldn't be seen again until 9/11. And finally the acquittal.

OJ lives in relative obscurity today near Miami -- raising his kids, and trying to stay out of the limelight, lest a skeptical America asks him how his "search for the 'real killers' is going."

At least until his recent interviews with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren and NBC's Katie Couric.

The story of OJ Simpson is the ultimate "hero-turned-heel" story. And one that, at least I hope, we don't have to see relived again any time soon.

Posted by mhking at June 17, 2004 01:59 PM

After OJ it became just a little harder to tout my USC alumni status.

Posted by: Rusty Shackleford at June 17, 2004 02:11 PM

You can't imagine how absolutely horrified we Rockets fans were in Houston at the time. As I remember through a drunken, gauzy veil, the game coverage wasn't even a split-screen... the game was temporarily obliterated for a crucial stretch of the 3rd or 4th quarter, and we had to rip the host's clock radio out of the wall and tune it in to the game to get any coverage.

Posted by: norbizness at June 17, 2004 03:46 PM
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