- - Sunday, July 23, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

So O.J. Simpson was granted his parole last week. He’ll be able to walk out of his Nevada prison on Oct. 1 and take his place in the world that he helped create.

In our twisted culture, perhaps it’s only right that Simpson, after spending nine years in prison on charges of armed robbery and kidnapping, gets to again take part in the “Vulture Era” he helped usher in after the 1994 murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

In the Simpson case, with its televised highway chase, bloody glove and celebrity lawyers, the business of media discovered there was money to be made in picking over the bones of dead people.

It was then that our interest in true crime took an unhealthy leap into the obsession that rules our lives today — see the popularity of the podcast “Serial,” which features an examination of a Baltimore murder in its first season.

Wikipedia describes “Serial” as “investigative journalism podcast,” which illustrates the transformation of what passes for news and “journalism” in the Vulture Era.

Sarah Koenig, one of the producers of “Serial,” has said the podcast is about “the basics: love and death and justice and truth. All these big, big things.”

But we have lost our focus on what are the basics for what is news — valuable information — and are “big big things.”

“Serial” owes its existence to Simpson.

Simpson gave birth to Nancy Grace, the queen vulture, and the change in news programming and so-called “documentaries” from public service to voyeurism, networks like “Tru TV,” and the early stages of what rules networks today — so-called “reality” television.

In the months before his parole hearing, the Simpson cottage industry was revived — first with the “must-watch” award-winning FX television program, “The People Vs. O.J. Simpson” and then ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary “event” called “O.J. Simpson: Made in America.”

According to the promotional material for the ESPN documentary “event,” it “revisits — and redefines — it all. The domestic abuse. The police investigation. The white Bronco chase. The trial of the century. The motive, the blood, the glove. The verdict. The aftermath. Drawing upon more than 70 interviews — from longtime friends and colleagues of Simpson to the recognizable protagonists of the murder investigation to observers and commentators with distinct connections to the story — the docu-event is an engrossing, compelling and unforgettable look at a tantalizing saga, because at the end of what seems like a search for the real truth about Simpson, what’s revealed just as powerfully is a collection of indelible, unshakeable, and haunting truths about America, and about ourselves.”

Here is the haunting truth.

When the world stopped as police chased O.J. in the white Bronco on live TV, one of O.J.’s lawyers, Gerald Uelmen, told the Washington Post in 2014, “What I realized is, this is entertainment. This is not news.”

Mark Crispin Miller, a professor of media studies at New York University, told the Washington Post that the O.J. Simpson case was a “harbinger of an entirely different media landscape — an event that preoccupies everyone full-time for months on end. You have to become gradually acclimated to this kind of spectacle.”

It also changed the way we looked at NFL players. After all, before O.J. became a TV and movie star, he was one of the greatest running backs in history, a former Heisman Trophy winner at USC who went on to be a five-time NFL Pro Bowler, and league MVP in 1973.

Now he was an accused murderer. And, even though he was acquitted in the trial that captivated the country, he was still seen by many as a murderer — an NFL Hall of Famer, a murderer.

It was as if the curtain that hid the darker side of the lives of our NFL heroes was lifted with the O.J. trial. Charges of domestic violence began surfacing more and more, and then, four years later, came Carolina Panthers receiver Rae Carruth, who set up the murder of his pregnant girlfriend and was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder.

After O.J. Simpson, it was all believable.

Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.

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