It’s being called the “Parole Hearing of The Century”–OJ Simpson goes before the Nevada Parole Board Thursday July 20th, an event so big that ESPN is planning on covering it live.
Simpson, of course, is one of America’s most notorious public figures, acquitted in 1995 of the 1994 murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. But his 13 years of freedom came to a halt in 2008 when he and some cohorts were arrested and eventually convicted of robbery in what Simpson claimed was an attempt to get back stolen sports memorabilia that belonged to him.
But before all that, Simpson was simply one of America’s most beloved celebrities–an NFL great (Hall of Fame running back, mostly with the Buffalo Bills), a commercial spokesperson for the likes of Hertz Rent A Car, sportscaster and actor. So when the country first learned Simpson was accused of murdering two people, and that he was involved in a low-speed chase on the LA freeways on June 17 1994 that was being broadcast live to the nation as it happened, it was tough for us to get our collective heads around.
It was especially tough for my dad…who had come to think very highly of Simpson due to a personal encounter of sorts with him back in 1977.
The backstory: that year the NFL Pro Bowl was in Seattle, near where I grew up. The day before the Pro Bowl, there was a Seattle Supersonic basketball game, and OJ was at the game, because he was in the Pro Bowl.
At halftime, me and about ten thousand other kids (I was 13 at the time) scrambled to where OJ was sitting and hit him up for autographs. I got one on a scrap piece of paper. But the next day in the Seattle paper, a writer said that OJ had disappointed fans by not signing autographs.
Well, back in the day, my dad was a chronic letter-to-the-editor writer, and so he took the opportunity to send the paper a note saying the writer was wrong; OJ signed lots of autographs, including one for me. The letter was published in the sports section. My dad proudly showed it to everybody, as he always did, and that was that.
Or so we thought.
About two months later, out of the blue, a manila envelope arrived in our mailbox. My dad opened it and was shocked to find a glossy 8×10 publicity photo of Simpson, personalized to our family.
And with the photo was a letter, addressed specifically to my dad, thanking him for sticking up for “The Juice”. (click below to enlarge)
From that day, until June 17, 1994, my dad was the biggest OJ Simpson fan there ever was. But once my dad got past his profound disappointment and had processed it all..? No. Not so much.
But, the photo and the letter are still in our family, and always will be, as bizarre as they seem now.