Simpson lost hero status in 1989, not last week

June 24, 1994|By ROGER SIMON

If, in your next life, you get the chance to come back either as the devoted mother of two or a cowardly thug who used to play football, I'd advise you to choose the cowardly thug.

You will get a lot more sympathy that way.

Even the man prosecuting you for murder will be dazzled by you.

"We saw, perhaps, the falling of an American hero," Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti said of O. J. Simpson.

Wrong.

O. J. Simpson fell from his status as an American hero not in the last few days but at 3:30 a.m. on Jan. 1, 1989, when he beat up his wife so badly she had to call the police and ask them to save her life.

On that day O. J. fled the scene (does this sound familiar?), and when he was finally hauled into court, he pleaded no contest to the brutal beating.

But did USA Today run the headline back then: "A Hero Topples"?

Did Time magazine put him on the cover back then with the headline: "An American Tragedy"?

Did Hertz, who was paying O. J. to represent its corporate image, admonish him in any way?

Naw.

You know what Hertz said back then?

"We regard it as a private matter to be treated as such between O. J.'s wife and the courts," said Hertz executive vice president Joe Russo.

A private matter between the wife and the courts. O. J. didn't even enter into it.

I said O. J. fell from his status as an American hero after beating his wife, but that is my sports fantasy.

In reality, though his actions were public record, they were not big news.

O. J. beat up his wife? And not just once, but several times? So what? Big deal.

He was a superstar.

And she was just a wife.

So when O. J. was interviewed on ESPN about the beating, he and his interviewer could actually laugh about it.

"It really wasn't that big a fight and it was New Year's Eve and it got a little loud," O. J. said with a grin.

Then he and the interviewer both laughed. It was a guy thing. New Year's Eve and all. And if you can't beat up your wife on New Year's Eve, when the hell can you beat her up?

"The point was they were trying to bring attention to a new law on the books and because of who I am, they chose me," O. J. said.

That's right. O. J. Simpson was complaining about what a burden itwas to be a star.

Did you ever hear, by the way, about O. J. beating up guys? Or getting into fights with people his own size?

Naw. No way. Beating women was his speed. Which made him not only a thug, but a coward.

But it made him no less marketable, no less a celebrity.

And now everybody keeps saying how "unbelievable" it is that he is accused of killing his ex-wife and a waiter who was with her.

But it is not only believable, it might have been predictable.

"Unfortunately, it is not at all unusual for women to be murdered when they try to leave a violent relationship," said Rita Smith of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. "It's a pattern we hear all the time."

Not that a murder charge is costing O. J. much sympathy.

Connie Chung said on CBS after his arrest: "It's sad, it's sobering to see him like this, but there is also a great sigh of relief to see him in custody and his fans feel better he is in good hands."

It's "sad" to see an alleged murderer in custody? Why? I was delighted.

But even the prosecutor, Gil Garcetti, cannot seem to shake the powerful mystique that surrounds sports superstars.

"We're all hurting right now," Garcetti said. "This is so painful for everyone who has viewed O. J. as a hero of sorts."

It is six years after O. J. has been publicly revealed as a wife beater, but he still gets called a hero again and again.

Like many of you, I watched on TV as O. J. was arraigned in a Los Angeles courtroom on Monday. And the people around me all said the same things, the same things you probably said.

"He looks awful."

"He looks terrible."

"He looks so depressed."

Yeah?

Well, you ought to see her.

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