The Juice is Gone


It’s my first job in the corporate world. I work at a software company called MapInfo, a supposedly cool tech company. And yet today there’s a television on in the cafeteria and there must be a hundred people gathered around it to watch the verdict in the O.J. Simpson murder trial that had captured our entire nation’s attention. Former NFL star, ad pitchman, and film actor Simpson had been charged in the brutal stabbing deaths of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman.

When the verdict was read—not guilty—a fellow employee standing next to me shouted out in glee. I looked at her like she had a highly contagious disease, and she said, “I’m a Bills fan.”

Yeah, fine, I am too. But the evidence against him seemed overwhelming and almost everyone was convinced O.J. was guilty. Well, not everyone. Not the jury, and not most Black people, although most white people believed he’d committed the awful deed.

I remember being out at the stadium and seeing O.J. play in his prime. He was a freak athlete, a combination of power, speed, and agility that made him one of the greatest running backs ever. When he got the ball, which was on almost every play, I was on the edge of my seat and cheering, watching him slash through the line, juke defenders, and shed tacklers. We cried out, “The Juice is loose!” He was the lone star on pretty crappy teams (we’re talking the Buffalo Bills), and he broke all kinds of NFL records.

He did these cool ads for Hertz, Mr. Superstar pitching the “Superstar in Rent-a-Car.” He’d gallop through the airport, leaping over luggage and darting around passengers. After retiring from football, he was in the Naked Gun movies, The Towering Inferno, and many other films and television episodes. He was as cool as cool can be, one of the most famous Black men in America.

And then came the second, sordid half of his life: the murders, followed by a bizarre slow-motion police chase on the L.A. freeways after which the white Ford Bronco Simpson was riding in became immortalized. A subsequent civil trial found him responsible for the murders. Some years later, he was sent to prison for nine years on kidnapping and robbery charges when he and two others broke into a Vegas hotel room to retrieve what he claimed were sports memorabilia that belonged to him.

Orenthal James Simpson died yesterday at age 76. As a kid, I loved him as a football player. As an adult, I didn’t cheer his acquittal in his murder trial, unlike my colleague, who apparently put her Buffalo Bills fandom above all else. These crazy Bills fans!

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


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