Ignore O.J., but don’t ignore his new book

By Scott Green

I’m amazed O.J. had enough energy to smile for his mug shot last weekend. He had a pretty busy few days.

Last Thursday his book, “If I Did It,” was released. It’s basically his confession to the murders of two people, including his ex-wife, 13 years ago. Hard to believe the media never picked up that story – you’d think if a famous athlete were accused of murder, we’d have heard something about it.

He was arrested Sunday and released on bail yesterday for an alleged armed robbery and kidnapping in Las Vegas a week ago. By the time he hit the cot in his cell, he must have been pooped, the poor thing.

Public sentiment holds we should ignore the book, which supposedly exploits two murder victims, and publicize the alleged robbery. As usual, public sentiment has it exactly wrong.

O.J. wasn’t drunk driving on a suspended license, didn’t shave his head clean of long, blonde locks, and didn’t yell racial slurs at a police officer to promote his film “Apocalypto” (starring the charming Rudy Youngblood). This isn’t some cute little celebrity misdemeanor at which we can all snicker – it is not a “lighter side” news piece.

I understand this story is so juicy it will probably give Geraldo Rivera a nocturnal emission. It’s got it all: A former athlete fallen from grace. Guns. Irony (one of the items Simpson allegedly tried to steal was a wedding video – blessed memories from a more pleasant time, a simpler time, a time when he had not yet been accused of stabbing the bride to death). The glitzy setting of a Vegas casino (the Palace Station, which I enthusiastically endorse as the Millard Fillmore of off-Strip properties).

But leave it alone. Let the scumbag rot in his scumbag jail cell all by his scumbag self. Every time I see him smirk at a television camera I get the impression he enjoys the media circus. His crime doesn’t affect the rest of society, isn’t adorable or humorous and is really minor compared to what he was charged with in 1994.

I’m not sure why everyone seems so shocked by this. “Yeah, he was accused of murdering a couple of people, which is pretty bad, I guess. But accusations of stealing? Oh, that is just over the line.” The man was civilly liable for two wrongful deaths – if anything, Simpson should be congratulated for the step down in the seriousness of his alleged felonies. In a few years, he could be down to arson, and maybe within 20 years it’ll be drug dealing and an occasional public nudity charge.

Simpson has been a known scumbag since even before Ron Goldman and Nicole Simpson died – he battered his ex-wife for years before he was tried for her murder. He’s not worthy of my attention. O.J. as a thief makes me wistful for Gary Coleman’s disorderly conduct days.

His book, on the other hand, is newsworthy and does deserve our attention. So why isn’t it the number one best-seller? How can Alan Greenspan’s “The Age of Turbulence” outsell it on Amazon.com? America didn’t turn overnight from a nation of gossips to one of fiscal analysts. A boring financial tome could never outsell a juicy true crime piece in the country I know and love.

When the book was almost published last year and Simpson owned the rights, buying a copy would have put money in the gloved hand of the accused, which I agree would have been very bad. But because a bankruptcy judge transferred the copyright to the Goldman family to help settle its victory against Simpson in a civil case for wrongful death, the Juice will never see a penny. The Goldmans will make a killing.

Yes, “If I Did It” is a 15-car pileup, both because you can’t help but take a guilty peek and because the prose is just dreadfully written. (Simpson’s narrative naturally suffers because there’s no mystery over the killer’s identity – the book would have been better if it were called “If Someone Else Did It.”) But don’t be embarrassed to hand a copy to the cashier and make the purchase. Treat your inner voyeur to the story you know you want to read. Part of the proceeds are even going to the Ron Goldman Foundation, set up to help survivors of violent crimes.

If he is convicted of the current charges, hope he thinks in his jail cell about how the book he wrote to exploit two deaths has instead enriched the family and foundation of one of the deceased. If we can turn away the bright lights of the television cameras, we will make that cell a dark and cold place to waste away.