OJ Simpson 2, Cancer 1

June 12, 1994. I was 14 years old and just finished my first year of high school at New World School of the Arts in Downtown Miami. On the other side of the country, sometime around 10 in the evening, on a still Los Angeles evening, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman were savagely murdered by an unknown assailant in front of her town house on Bundy Drive. Bundy. The irony isn’t lost on me.

What I didn’t know was for the next 30 years, I became heavily obsessed with each and every single aspect of the case. I was glued to the tube. No one my age gave a shit. They were playing basketball, chasing girls, and wondering why their pale friend (me) would rather stay inside all day watching TV morning, noon, and night about some retired football player who might have murdered his ex-wife and some unfortunate waiter.

And then the White Bronco chase. OJ Simpson sitting in the back with cash, a gun, and a disguise. His best friend ex-football player AC Cowling driving, It really wasn’t much of a chase. More a police escort for murder suspect back to his home in Brentwood. I was watching the Rockets/Knicks game like a great deal of America. Suddenly, a tiny square appeared in the corner of my TV. The world would never be the same again. We listened in as Los Angeles Detective Tommy Lange (who would figure prominently in the trial) tried talking OJ down from doing harm to himself. People cheering on highway crosswalks hoping he’d see them. I’m more than sure everyone had their “Where were you when…” stories from that day.

That summer, I began to amass a new set of friends. My courtroom friends.

The Prosecution: Marcia Clark (the hair), Christopher Darden (the gloves), William Hodgman (couldn’t cut it). The Defense: Robert Shapiro (the eyebrows), Johnnie Cochran (the race card), Carl Douglas (sass), F. Lee Bailey (The n word), Barry Scheck (helps get OJ off then creates a program to get wrongly accused people off by DNA. “Isn’t it ironic, doncha think?”) Then of course, Robert Kardashian (skunk hair and father to three girls that might’ve become famous). And finally, the reason why justice took all the twists and turns it did, Judge Ito.

The night of the murders, OJ took off to Chicago. There, “The Juice” (a nick name from his exceptional days in the NFL) was notified by police by phone that his ex-wife had been murdered, almost decapitated. Strangely, OJ never asked what happened to her. The infamous “OJ threw a glass and cut his finger on his left hand” incident occurred moments later. See, the assailant was bleeding from their left side leaving Nicole Brown’s home that night.

Later in life, I would happen to read the transcript of a conversation between OJ, Detective Tom Lange, and Detective Philip Vannatter the night OJ came back from Chicago. It’s a fascinating study. Everyone has an opinion on it. My opinion, I think Lange and Vannatter did what they needed to and that was to keep OJ talking. It doesn’t go for long, but the contradictions in OJ’s story are there for anyone to see. He tells three stories alone about that bleeding left hand of his.

The scene of the crime was drenched in blood. Nicole lay dead in a black slip at the top of her walkway. Ron received stab wounds when he was both alive and dead. That meant the killer (or possible killers, so says the Defense) turned their attention to Nicole. Once done with her, turned back to him, and made sure Ron was dead. Besides the blood of Nicole, Ron, and OJ’s, a dark knit cap (containing hair fibers resembling OJ’s), one blood soaked glove, bloody shoe prints (Bruno Magli’s or as OJ put it “them ugly shoes”), the crumbled envelope containing Nicole Brown’s mother’s reading glasses. The reason Ron was stopping by that night. They were left at his restaurant Mezzaluna. And did I mention all the blood?

They had the one camera in the courtroom.

Probably mistake numero uno. If there were anyone who knew how to work that camera, it was OJ. A handsome man, extremely charismatic. If you wanted to know how he felt about a witness, his face said it all. Kato Kaelin, a trial favorite, all bleached blond hair and snappy with a joke had OJ smiling when the camera was on him. Letting us know he’s okay. Mark Fuhrman, LA Detective (who found the other bloody glove at Simpson’s home), and come to find out big time racist would illicit scowls from OJ. Letting us know he’s the villain.

Eleven months went by. The Defense had broken apart the Prosecution’s case from illustrating the blood was collected incorrectly, potentially planted. They hammered home the point a possible corrupt LA police force targeted OJ. The White Bronco chase was not admitted into evidence. The gloves did not fit OJ’s hands. However the gloves had shrunk in size by the blood drying. And he was fitting them over a pair of rubber gloves. But it’s believed he stopped taking his arthritis medication so as his hands would balloon, rendering those gloves impossible to pull on. It was quite the spectacle in court. And OJ’s let’s say most important performance of his career.

I was a junior in high school and a couple of us crowded the radio in our recently dismissed Spanish class. None of us were going anywhere. The verdict was about to be read. Nobody expected one so soon. But the jury had had enough. Almost a year had passed. The trial bled jurors. The nation was exhausted. A new form of television was created. True Crime TV. And in a few minutes, it’d be over. I bet my friend three dollars OJ was guilty. Boy, how I was wrong. The lead juror flubs his first name. Then comes his last. Then comes “not guilty”. To say we were racially divided on the verdict is an understatement.

The trial exposed the best and worst in us. But we were done with OJ. Ron’s family and Nicole’s family brought a civil suit against OJ. And it was there, without the omnipresent camera eye, did a brand new trial commence. This time, OJ was put to a deposition. Footage of this is out there. Compelling stuff. I’ll let you be the judge. He’s wearing a yellow sweater and acting, let’s shall we say, not like a nice person.

I understand being done with the whole thing, but have a little class. It was probably the last time we saw the real OJ. And after the Prosecuting lawyer tied those “ugly ass shoes” to ones he was wearing while being a sideline broadcaster, the jig was up. And this time, the verdict was guilty. To this day, he’s never willingly paid the 33 million dollar award to the Goldmans and the Browns.

After commissioning a video where OJ basically takes you through the whole trial’s chain of evidence, and explains away it all, he agrees to publish a book entitled “If I Did It”, where yes, he describes the night in question. It may be the most fucked decision in mainstream media I’ve ever seen. I’ve read it. And if you want a heavy dose of victim shaming, that’s the book for you. The Goldman’s sued, thank goodness. Any proceeds would go to his and the Brown family. And the “If” in the title was made really small on the book’s cover. OJ would, like most times in his life, would use them for every choice he would make in his life. “For my kids” may be his mantra.

After the trials, LA was done with OJ. So where does everyone go when they’ve become a national pariah? Miami, y’all. Kendall, more specific. For some years, OJ was the number one celeb sighting. A Where’s Waldo without a red and white stripped cap but a black knit cap. He made a music video like we all do. OJ’s kids were known to some of my more partying friends. But one thing’s for sure, if you ever met OJ, he would leave you thinking he’s the best guy in the world. But like everyone in Miami, it was time OJ left. A move that bought him even more infamy.

Las Vegas. OJ Simpson and his last port of call.

Golf, glitz, and another guilty verdict. OJ was retrieving a bunch of his NFL memorabilia with a few friends in a hotel on the strip. Except one of his friends brought a gun. And that, dear readers, is a felony. And when OJ appeared tired and over it in court, the judge handed down a sentence with so much irony they needed to clear the room. OJ  received a maximum sentence of 33 years. That number look familiar? Scroll up. Yep. Is that not incredible or what. An abuse of justice but you gotta hand it to the judge for style. OJ would remain in prison for 9 years before he got out.

I’ve been following OJ on Twitter since he was released. He uploaded videos of himself speaking mostly about sports. But when there was something in the news he just had to comment on, he would. He would introduce himself as “Yours Truly”. And man if he hadn’t murdered two innocent people, I dare call this man Grandpa OJ. Yes, I think he did it. I’d actually gone back and forth about that for years. There’s so much out there. I highly recommend the 8 part series of ESPN’s OJ: Made in America. It brings every nuance to light both racially and judicially. And the epic 25 episode Court TV OJ25. Stellar filmmaking, deeply informative, really required viewing.

It’s almost 30 years to the night Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman were killed by the hands of one of the greatest running backs in NFL history. A man who made us cheer louder than any stadium then and now. There was no “the man” before OJ. He became the man. He’s also the man who made us laugh pretty damn hard in the Naked Gun series (stream ‘em). His Hertz commercials made us smile and created a new mainstream racial harmony.

His mission in life seemed to spread joy.

Show people something they’ve never seen before. Well, he did. Unfortunately, at the cost of two lives. He battered, stalked, obsessed over his wife for years. And when he wasn’t invited to Mezzaluna that night after his daughter Sydney’s recital, and his girlfriend at the time Paula Barbieri broke up with him earlier that day, something snapped. The man put on his dark cap. dark gloves, dark outfit, and grabbed a knife.

Minutes later, he hopped in his Bronco, drove to Bundy Drive, confronted Nicole, and after he knocked her out for the moment, a friendly waiter named Ron stumbled upon the scene. His friend Nicole lay beaten on the steps. And the big imposing figure began stabbing Ron until he couldn’t stand anymore. Following him down to the humid ground, thrusting what will become Ron’s killer blow. Then returning his attention to Nicole, OJ jabbed her face with the knife, taunting her, whispering to her, and then slicing her throat so deep, she was almost decapitated. Ron lay on the ground, like a crumpled up newspaper, bloodied and dead. But before OJ left, he stabbed Ron a few more times for good measure. In the autopsy, it was shown Ron did all he could to defend Nicole and himself. That’s the man.

OJ Simpson died April 10, 2024 at the age of 76. His epitaph should read “He got away with everything”. There is no justice in this world. Just a killer with a nice smile and okay lawyers.

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Travis Roig

Travis Roig is a Miami Shores native, creator of old timey horror radio podcast “Terror on the Air,” a singer songwriter and most recently, the host of Roig Rage: A Podcast, a hilarious look into the struggles of a simple man trying to live in modern day Miami.