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Squeezing More Out Of The Juice - Chris "Preach" Smith

Photo Credit: ABC News

Last Thursday afternoon, I tried to avoid it.

The parole hearing of the disgraced NFL legend O.J. Simpson
was last Thursday. You couldn't help but hear about it thanks 
to ESPN and other networks touting this as "must-see TV". 
Simpson was serving a 33 year sentence for his role in being
the mastermind of a botched robbery in a Las Vegas hotel -
a robbery that was an attempt to get personal items and
memorabilia that he was advised was stolen from him. He had
served nine years of that sentence. The days before the hearing,
I began to see how other media outlets were preparing themselves
for the airing of the parole hearing. And I have to say, while
it irked me, it isn't a surprise. And when the board made the 
decision to grant him parole, releasing him in October...I knew
it would only get more people in a frenzy.

One of the open secrets that exists about America that O.J.
represents is that we are still undoubtedly all-day suckers for
sensationalism, no matter if its delivered in a slick package
or doled out in a crude manner like miniature alcohol bottles
from a cardboard box in the back of an SUV. And the media
outlets of this nation know it. They were laying groundwork
for interest in subtle ways at least a month beforehand. How?
Well, A&E Network began showing the highly regarded five-part
documentary "O.J.:Made In America" about 2 weeks prior. 
Other networks began showing their O.J. programs, mainly 
centered around the 1994 murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown
Simpson and Ron Goldman. Articles were springing up about
O.J. How he stood to make a couple of million if paroled. How
he was conducting himself in prison. Last Thursday, I was 
working with the TV on in the background as I sometimes do
and I was flipping to avoid channels that had it on. I wound
up settling for an airing of a daytime judge show. I saw the 
social media flurry of activity once the decision was made. I
turned to one network to hear the analyst reaction and got 
what I was expecting - disappointment that Simpson got freed
and in the case of one particular analyst, outrage. 

Which leads me to this - another open secret that O.J.'s parole
hearing unveiled is that of race and privilege and how once 
again, he managed to buck the system. I still believe that a 
good deal of the ire against Simpson dating all the way back
to 1995 when he was acquitted in the murder trial is that by
the letter of the law, he got off. "This Negro got away!!" is what
still swims in the maudlin swamps some out there have for 
brains. In an ironic manner, the other news story that WASN'T
stemming from the White House? The story of a white Australian
woman who was a yoga teacher in Minneapolis being shot and
killed by a Black police officer after requesting help. A story that
has played out in recent years repeatedly, but with the ethnicities
of those involved reversed. And in the days since, we've seen
the police chief RESIGN over it and calls for the mayor to step
down along with an uproar from those who previously were 
so pro-law enforcement that they stooped to thoroughly demean
all of those who lost their lives at the hands of inept cops as "thugs"
and "deserving it" because of the color of their skin. O.J. getting
parole angers them in the same way. Color is the main denominator.

Let's make one thing clear - I'm not someone who is going out
of his way to defend The Juice. I do think he's done some really
reprehensible things, and has put himself in a position that has 
hurt a great many people all for his own ego. But last Thursday
reaffirmed to me that there's still a market for the kind of fame
that surrounds O.J. I mean, one of the better & albeit controversial
songs from Jay-Z's most recent album 4:44 has him as a central
point. The media at large, and O.J. himself, understands that 
there is still a lot left to be made from his existence in the public
eye. They dug up Kato Kaelin again for heaven's sakes. I know 
that one of my boys who worked on the ESPN doc has already
stated publicly that he hopes O.J. just sticks to the shadows. I 
don't think that will happen only because he, like a certain 
orange-tinted figure in politics, needs this attention. They've had
the fame either through adulation or disgust for so long that they
don't know how to operate without it. They confuse it with love &
validation from early on and it sticks. And there are always people
willing to feed into it. The last six months of this nation is a testament
to how that can backfire. But O.J. will still be willing to feel the 
squeeze as long as it gets him fame and the benefits once more.
But what about the other stuff that gets left behind as a result?

That's a question that goes beyond sound bites and half-hour 
televised debates.


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