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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Basic Biittner : O.J.'s Legacy

Monday, June 18, 2012

Once upon a time in the Land of Fruit and Nuts, aka California, there lived a young man with the unlikely name of Orenthal James Simpson.

He went by his initials - O.J. - and the story goes that the young man didn't even know that "Orenthal" was his given name until his name was called for roll one day in grammar school, and he didn't answer.

The young man was gifted with dazzling speed and strength, which he displayed on the gridiron battlefield in the Trojan (USC) Wars.

O.J. went on to display his gridiron skills as a professional in Buffalo, New York - a place whose weather was pretty much the polar opposite of the Southern California weather to which he was accustomed - and after a season or two of adjustment to the professional game, and the addition of some stellar teammates, O.J. Simpson burst forth with a record-breaking season. A few years later, he was elected to both the College and Professional Football Halls of Fame, where his glowing legacy would be on display for years to come, in spite of his less-than-memorable performances as an actor and TV personality in his post-football career.

That all changed, of course. in the mid-1990s, when he was accused of murdering his ex-wife and her friend. His murder trial then became a "Must-See-TV" event, and as the years pass, he is remembered less for his football career than his post-football life.

O.J's legacy, I fear, now has nothing to do with playing football. He is instead the "Poster Boy" for celebrity trials. In the years since, it doesn't seem like many months pass without some celebrity (or near-celebrity) being on trial for some misdeed or the other, be it murder, sexual abuse, steroid use, gambling, perjury, OWI, you name it. And the public - or the media, at least, loves it.

Hereis a partial list of the celebrities for whom their off-the-field, off-screen, or out-of-the-studio antics, as in O.J.'s case, seem to have eclipsed the fame they originally gained for their work in their chosen fields: Pete Rose, Phil Spector, Robert Blake, Michael Jackson, Lindsay Lohan, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Tiger Woods and John Edwards. Most of the people on this list achieved great success prior to their "fall from grace".

Then there is former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was never really a celebrity, but who had been a long-established assistant coach under one of the most successful and respected coaches in history, Joe Paterno. Now, thanks to Sandusky's alleged history of long-standing sexual abuse, for many people the legacy of Joe Paterno and Penn State are no longer held in as high esteem as they once were .

Of course the individuals maed above were responsible for their own actions, and I don't believe that any of them really desired to become famous for anything other than their chosen field of work, but "it is what it is," as they say, and that - in an indirect way - is the legacy of O.J. Simpson, wherever he may be.

I forget - is Las Vegas his current "place of residence?"

Dan Whitney
Basic Biittner