A conference room at the Lovelock Correctional Center is the new Ford Bronco.
Some 20 years later, even after he’s spent the last nine years locked away and out of the public eye, O.J. Simpson mesmerizes the country like no one else. It doesn’t matter that we’ve seen every episode of this soap opera already and knew exactly how it was going to end.
(When one of the four members of the Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners – you know, the folks who held Simpson’s fate in their hands – showed up in a Kansas City Chiefs tie Thursday, it was a pretty good sign things were going to go Simpson’s way. They did, and he’ll be released as early as Oct. 1. He’s your problem now, Florida!)
When it’s O.J., we simply can’t look away.
His parole hearing was given the proper must-see TV treatment, broadcast live for more than two hours on each of the news networks and ESPN. Analysts were brought in to parse Simpson’s answers for some greater meaning or deep revelation.
Despite his insistence that he’s never made excuses for the armed confrontation with memorabilia dealers, Simpson’s explanation of what happened that night in 2007 sure sounded like one the longer he rambled.
His contention that he’d “never, ever pull a weapon on anybody,” raised eyebrows, given that his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend, Ronald Goldman, were brutally stabbed to death.
Simpson was acquitted of murder charges in 1995, but a civil court found him responsible for Brown and Goldman’s deaths two years later. He was ordered to pay their families $33.5 million, a judgment that has since ballooned to $60 million because of interest.
“There was the 10,000-pound elephant in the room,” Simpson attorney Malcolm LaVergne acknowledged. “We were very successful in making sure that elephant was sleeping. It was washed, it was clean … and never started rearing its head and knocking things around.”
I’m not even sure what that means, though one of the commissioners noted the board had gotten many letters referring to Brown and Goldman’s deaths and was disregarding all of them. Nor am I certain why an unkempt mullet would have a negative impact on someone’s credibility, as LaVergne argued – passionately — after the hearing it should.
But it doesn’t matter. That’s the phenomenon of Simpson.
Long before the current craze, when the only famous Kardashian was one of the attorneys representing him, Simpson was the original reality TV star.
That Bronco, the “Trial of the Century,” the bloody glove, those “ugly-ass shoes” — everything about Simpson, before and after Brown and Goldman’s deaths, has been a source of fascination.
Most fads fade, but not Simpson. Even with him behind bars, supposedly forgotten, a documentary about him won an Oscar and a TV series was the toast of the Emmys. He said Thursday that he’s gotten countless requests for interviews, and turned them all down.
“I’m not interested in any of that,” Simpson said.
All he wants is to return to Florida – which just happens to be one of the states where his house can’t be seized by the Goldman family’s attorney, by the way – and spend time with his kids.
But Simpson has been in the spotlight since he was 19, and bad habits are hard to break. We tuned in Thursday, didn’t we?
By Nancy Armour
This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.