Alright, first of all if you’re not watching this you should (all 5 parts are available to stream now WatchESPN tomorrow). This will be a test of your patience as based on the first part this series is going to take its time laying down the groundwork and fleshing out a lot of ideas to the fullest possible extent. Going to try (no guarantees) to keep this short, not intended to be a cliff notes version of the show, but a plug to entice you to watch.
A lot of it is relative to your age, I was born in the early 90’s, so I never saw O.J. play, I was too young to remember him racing for the border in a Ford Bronco, all I really knew of O.J. was he was an old football player who got away with murder allegedly.
So, cue part 1. It dives into the racial tension in Los Angeles in particular and how the events coincided with O.J.’s rise to extreme stardom. It touches on the false perception African Americans in the South had of L.A., it was viewed as a judgment free sanctuary in a sense, where in reality it was arguably just as bad as the states people originally fled from in the first place.
An interesting storyline is the corrupt LAPD and how it had brought in a new commissioner to straighten things out, which apparently meant recruiting officers from KKK rallies and showing a total disregard for the rights of the city’s African American inhabitants.
All while L.A. is turmoil from a racial and overall justice standpoint, Orenthal James Simpson is playing junior college football and continuing his quest to eventually arrive at USC. USC is depicted as a white privilege oasis, which you’d think a young black man during some of the most racially charged times in our nation’s history would be uncomfortable at the least, but not O.J. he just ate it up.
O.J. had been “plucked from the black community,” and “seduced by the white society,” and while student protests were rocking the campuses of UC Berkeley and San Jose State and basically every other campus in the country, O.J. existed inside his perfect bubble.
While other notable black stars (and O.J. was a star once he got to USC), such as Lew Alcindor, Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell and Jim Brown were joining in solidarity to speak against Vietnam and to organize a boycott of the 1968 Olympic games, O.J. was focused on the 120 yards of green field within the confines of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
As you watch it quickly becomes clear that O.J. isn’t abstaining from involving himself in politics due to his attention being solely on football, he’s focused much more on separating himself from his black peers. The piece focuses a lot on his obsession with distancing himself from the color of his skin. And how he succeeded in that.
“He overheard a white woman at the next table saying, ‘Look, there’s O.J. sitting with all those n***ers,’” Lipsyte said. “I remember in my naive day, saying to O.J., ‘Gee, wow, that must have been terrible for you.’ And he said, ‘No. it was great don’t you understand? She knew that I wasn’t black. She saw me as O.J.”
“At that moment, I thought he was fucked,” Lipsyte added.
I know this was a brief peak into what the program brought to the table, but the way it artfully weaves from the broader problems facing America and L.A. in particular, to the secluded bubble of stardom that encapsulated O.J. Simpson was beyond fascinating.
Additionally the character study of O.J. Simpson the person is extremely captivating especially when told through the eyes of some his closest friends. I didn’t even begin to touch on his years in Buffalo or in high school. These show specifics of his social life and paints the picture of an extremely devious and selfish man who masked his intentions by the way he aimed to please those whose approval would benefit him most. Catch Part 2 Tuesday night or binge watch it as soon as it’s available like I’m going to do.
Also shoutout to Huffington Post for the quote, so I didn’t have to watch that interview 10 times to transcribe it.