Can you feel nostalgic over the OJ car chase?

Date Published: 
June 20, 2014

Tuesday apparently marked the 20th anniversary of the most boring thing that’s ever been put on television — a seminal moment in history that quite-possibly sprung the birth of reality television, caused much of the free world to simulataneously stare in a state of disbelief like Dr. Evil was spinning a giant hypnotic wheel from the moon and most likely caused the Ford Bronco to stop being manufactured.

Yes, I’m talking about that infamous police chase through suburban Los Angeles, featuring every Los Angeles police officer from Starsky & Hutch to Charlie’s Angels, former NFL player Al Cowlins, throngs of people lining the streets and overpasses along the “chase” route, and one Orenthal James Simpson. You might know him as O.J.

This was a chase only in the broadest definition. There were indeed police officers in pursuit, and there was in fact a suspect who didn’t pull over when the officers put on their lights. That’s about as far as it goes in regards to being a “chase.” Do you like watching those high-speed chases on reality shows where a suspect inevitably crashes into a guardrail or does 64 flips across 14 lanes of rush-hour traffic?

This was not for you.

It was 1,000 police officers chasing a white Ford Bronco traveling at about 20 miles per hour. It was as sad as watching me chase an ice cream truck down the street, before ultimately quitting because my fear of a hear attack outweighed my love for Drumsticks.

But it was compelling, and I did find myself in a few conversations on Tuesday regarding where we were when the chase happened. Some people I spoke with were in high school, and a few others were watching the NBA Finals. Our one reporter, Maria Counts, told me she remembers watching it, and thinks she was at her babysitter’s house. I wanted to kick her in her shins for that answer. You know, the older I get, the more I want to physically assault young people for ...

But I digress.

I was playing in an adult softball game in California when someone got there late and said he was listening to the chase on the radio. We finished our game and hit the nearest bar to witness the spectacle for ourselves, and everyone was in a state of disbelief that this was really happening. O.J. was seen as a good guy back then, the electrifying and charismatic football star who smoothly made the transition in life to pitchman, actor and sideline reporter for Monday Night Football. Who didn’t love The Juice?

As it turns out, he might not have been the role model he so skillfully crafted for the world to see.

Regardless, the conversations on Tuesday got me thinking about other historic “where-were-you” moments throughout the course of my own lifetime. I was not born yet for the JFK assassination or the moon landing, so I’ll respectfully leave them out in this discussion, but there are still a few solid ones.

• The “Miracle on Ice” in 1980. Many of you will not include this on your own lists because it involves hockey, but this remains as my favorite sports moment. Watching the American amateurs win the gold medal over Finland was certainly thrilling, but seeing them defeat Russia during the height of the Cold War in the semifinals was even better. I watched it on my living room floor with my family, and a poster of the players celebrating hung on my bedroom wall until about 1987.

• The Space Shuttle Challenger exploding in 1986. This was the first heart-wrenching thing I remember seeing, and I was sitting in a high school history class watching the disaster on television. I remember staring with my mouth open and hearing a few people in the classroom crying. I won’t soon forget it.

• The O.J. verdict in 1995. I was a reporter and had just finished an interview when the voice on my radio announced that the verdict had come in, and it was “not guilty.” I pulled over the car because I thought my head was going to implode. Did I mention that I was driving a Ford Bronco at the time?

• Sept. 11, 2001. I was on deadline at another paper and was completely oblivious to the extent of what was happening until I stepped away and took a look for myself. I went home and watched television until I went to work the next morning.

• Seattle Seahawks versus the Baltimore Ravens in 2003. The Seahawks led 41-24 in the fourth quarter before the Ravens came back to win in overtime. I was following the game with our own Shaun Lambert, a huge Seahawks fan.

And I laughed. Like, a lot. In fact, I just laughed again.