Sometimes people slide from a productive member of society to celery status gradually. At one time they were the hottest thing around, and then, without quite knowing how or when, they find themselves throwing fits while standing outside the velvet ropes at some posh nightclub, usually wearing clothes a decade or so too young for themselves, screaming "I'm [INSERT NAME HERE], damnit!" while his or her assistant tries to minimize the damage to the dwindling status of the faded celebrity's name.
This was to be the fate of Orenthal, before he decided to get his sunglasses back. After that fateful night, he dove headfirst into Celeryville.
Many of you may not remember OJ in his prime as a football player. He was an incredible running back. I'm a Steelers fan, but I grew up about 100 miles from Buffalo, and I watched him play football quite a bit. His first three years were unremarkable because of the horrible offensive line he was behind, but then they drafted a few pulling guards, and his season-long yardage totals went from less than 700 in 1971, to a then-record 2,oo3 yards in 1973.
Look at this shot. Look at which way his shoulders are pointed. Pretty much straight towards the line of scrimmage. Now look at
his hips. Look at where his feet are going. A split second before this was snapped, i guarantee those toes were aimed right at the photographer. How could you tackle that?
This was true OJ--no matter how hard you tried to tackle him, he always seemed to be able to get away. He wasn't the fastest, or the strongest, or even the most elusive. He was enough of all three that you couldn't pull him down.
He was just as elusive twenty-four years later.
After football, he was the perfect corporate shill, selling his athletic abilities for Hertz Rent-A-Cars, sprinting through the terminals in a way that would be sure to get him a few rubber bullets into the small of his back today. Go, OJ! Go!
He also acted in a few movies not quite bad enough to be legendary, and did a quite a bit of sideline commentary for football games. Then, in 1988, he portrayed Detective Nordberg in The Naked Gun, and he enjoyed a revival of sorts with his surprisingly deft physical comedy, and he went on to appear in both sequels, each time getting the shit knocked out of him in a series of humorous episodes.
The one thing about OJ's post-football career that stands out to me is the following: he did everything he could to be safe. His entire image was predicated on the fact that he was a friendly, funny, intelligent, caring--but mostly, safe--black man.
As far as I can tell OJ Simpson did little to help other African-Americans unless they were also running backs from USC. He spent most of his public time as a spokesperson or a persona affiliated with mostly white endeavors. The neighborhood in which he lived was also a primarily white enclave. This is not to say that he wasn't proud of his African heritage. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn't. But the color he was most attracted to was green.
Perhaps it was this shallowness that drove his wife, Nicole Brown, away from him. Whatever it was, it didn't seem to sit well with OJ.
If you were alive in the mid-nineties, you know the rest. OJ used all his privilege and money to portray himeself as a poor black man, and escaped prison, but not civil judgement. Nor did he fare well in the court of public opinion, where he will forever be a pariah.
But none of this is what brings CofH status to Orenthal. It's his refusal to go quietly into that extremely expensive good night. Right after his acquital, he announced he was going to devote the rest of his life to finding the killer of his wife and Ronald Coleman. Apparently, he believes they are hiding on some golf course somewhere. Even then, had he made his obligatory statement and hid from the public, it wouldn't have mattered.
What matters is that he still pops up every damned opportunity that he can. For a long time, it seemed as if he had actually convinced himself that he was innocent. But then, he wrote a book, and was about to appear in a special, where he would tell us how he killed two people, but only hypothetically.
Of all the things written and said about OJ Simpson, I think that the most succinct and accurate statement was made by the sports radio personality Jim Rome, who said:
"Do us all a favor, OJ: Go straight to hell."
OJ Simpson: the deadliest celery of humanity.