Thank you, O.J. Simpson!

Twenty years ago today, we Americans first wasted our collective time on a national level. As I look at what’s happening today and in the past few days in the sports world, I notice that much of June 17, 2014 is an echo of June 17, 1994: the NBA finals, the World Cup, the Stanley Cup. But 2014 is sorely lacking when it comes to former NFL stars/”actors” on the run after being charged in the murder of their ex-wife and her friend.

The summer of 1994 was the summer my family moved to Lexington, KY, where I went on to graduate from high school, attend the University of Kentucky, and live until I got married in 2001. I remember sitting, watching the excruciatingly slow yet unbelievably engrossing car chase, and I remember what a state of disbelief the world was in. “Umm…I think O.J. Simpson killed his wife,” was uttered in my home, and I’m sure the homes of countless others. What were we watching? Why were we so fascinated?

We couldn’t tear ourselves away because we expected it to “get good.” Surely it was going to turn into a high speed, dangerous, shoot-em-up any minute, right? Or maybe O.J. was going to kill himself. He did, after all, have a gun with him. Right? It was ridiculous, and yet it took over our lives. There would be no going back to watch it on YouTube the next day (“YouTube? What’s that?” asks 1994) and so we watched it live on whichever station had our news anchor of choice (back when we had news anchors of choice).

My family adopted a kitten that summer. She was completely black, and as we debated what to name her, my sister threw White Bronco into the hat as a choice. (Not surprisingly, I wanted to name her Torvill.) White Bronco was somewhat seriously considered, though we ended up going with Sombra. But I can’t help but wonder how many pets or, heaven forbid, children were named after that period of our history. Was there a cat named White Bronco, or a dog named Ito? Please tell me no one named their child Kato – at least not because of the O.J. trial!

We watched for hours, days, weeks, months. It began with Domino’s Pizza shattering all previous records for pizza deliveries during the car chase, and it ended with no Domino’s Pizza in America selling a single pizza for the five minutes during which the verdict was read. The world was standing still, listening and watching as one.

It’s impossible to explain to those too young to have witnessed it. We, as a nation and as a world, were transfixed for more than a year. How do you explain that to a 2014 culture which gets tired of coverage of Kim and Kanye’s wedding within minutes? (Not that I think there should be more Kardashian coverage in the world…that’s for sure.)

But even the Kardashians are where they are because of that day twenty years ago. You see, children…Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, and Rob are the children of Kris Jenner (as you all know) and a man named Robert Kardashian. Robert Kardashian was a close friend to O.J., and read to the world Simpson’s weird letter (Is it an admission of guilt? A suicide note? A script for the next Naked Gun movie?) as Al Cowlings and O.J. continued their enthralling joyride.

Just a few years later, after O.J. was found not guilty (only to later be found guilty in a civil suit, and write a stupid book about how he would have pulled off the murders, if he had done it, which of couse he didn’t…ahem…) the world was introduced to the reality show “Survivor”. From there we went on to “The Bachelor,” “Big Brother,” “Dancing With The Stars,” “The Amazing Race,” “America’s Next Top Model,” and countless others. And yes, we went on to “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.”

In my humble opinion, all of that stems from a day twenty years ago when we held our breath, ordered a pizza, and decided it was much more fun to watch other people dealing with their disastrous lives than it was to deal with our own issues.

Thanks, O.J.. Thanks a lot.

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