Simpson, Overanalyzed

July 10, 1994|By RAY FRAGER

Disney's newest feature, "The Lion King," features a frightening depiction of a stampede. But this could be only the second-scariest one of the summer.

No. 1 has to be the rampaging of the experts toward the cameras and the keyboards in the wake of the O. J. Simpson case. Sort of a running of the bull.

It's not enough, apparently, that two people were murdered, that two young children lost their mother, that a well-known person is accused of the crime, that his surrender to authorities was preceded by a bizarre freeway parade carried live on television.

No, this case tells us Something. So say the on-camera pundits and the pontification pros (writing their pontification prose).

Oh, yeah? Let's check on some of the revelations:

* The false image of Mr. Simpson on TV hid another side of his personality.

Sure, TV promotes a fake intimacy with its personalities, and perhaps the star-making machinery of sports and Hollywood presented half -- or less -- of Mr. Simpson's true image. But what about those who knew Mr. Simpson beyond the tube?

Mr. Simpson's friends say they were shocked by the murder charges. If Mr. Simpson had been your friend, you likely would have said the same. Think about your acquaintances. Unless you happen to be a friend of, say, Charles Manson's, wouldn't most of us be shocked to find that somebody we know stands accused of a double murder?

* This case provides important insight into the corrupting nature of celebrity.

Try this updated version of the Fitzgerald-Hemingway debate: Celebrities are different from you and me. Yes, they're more famous.

If the only men who beat their wives and got away with it were celebrities, this would be a much better world.

OK, but what about the Los Angeles police's extraordinarily hands-off treatment of Mr. Simpson leading up to his arrest? I'm sorry, but you don't have to be a Robin Leach devotee to know that the rich and famous get special handling in all sorts of instances.

* The misogyny of American sports has come home to roost.

Here's a larger leap than any Carl Lewis ever made.

Certainly, that pro athletes appear more likely womanizers than the general male population isn't a big scoop. Dan Jenkins has written that nobody is married on the road. But he just as easily could have been referring to a traveling rock band.

American sports are male-centered, all right. Yes, women's basketball gets a fraction of the attention given to the NBA. But that's a pretty crooked line connecting a preference for the NBA to Nicole Simpson's murder.

It's as if O. J. Simpson's white Bronco still were rolling down the road, except now it's being trailed by a convoy of pundits, each seeking to slap his or her bumper sticker onto the case. Sexism, racism, celebrityism, sportsism . . . pretty soon, that car is covered with bumper stickers.

We can keep putting labels on this case, but it sure obscures the view.

Ray Frager is assistant sports editor of The Baltimore Sun.

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