There are days when the best a newspaper can do is restate Ÿ and in some cases, overstate Ÿ the obvious.
Today is one of those days.
The Trial of the Century turned into the Verdict Heard 'Round the World yesterday, as Orenthal James Simpson was acquitted of the murders of his ex-wife and her friend. To say the news spread like wildfire, well, that would be the grossest understatement since the astute observation that there was a slight leak in the Titanic.
As hundreds gathered around the television in the Student Union lounge Ÿ some perched on furniture, others who couldn't see merely trying to listen Ÿ camera crews and photographers roamed the scene trying to capture the moment.
And what a long moment it was. As millions upon millions of ears were peeled to the jury forewoman's shaking, quivering voice, as she understandably stumbled over the reading of the words "Orenthal" and "California," attempting to correct herself as she approached the moment of the verdict, it was a wonder the room did not become a vacuum. After all, the only expulsion of air was from that jury forewoman, as the breath from the words "Not guilty" was sucked up just as quickly as it escaped her lips.
And from the Student Union lounge, 500 miles away, those same words ignited both screams and groans, the former, however, much louder than the latter. Literally in minutes, the campus was ablaze with the news, but it didn't stay news for long.
At about 10:10 a.m., people stopped greeting each other in the usual "Hi," "Hey," "What's up?" manner. In fact, people just stopped each other Ÿ those who weren't in front of some kind of television screen, that is. Hey, this was not a usual morning. This was the morning, as in the end of O.J.
And so, when Joe met Mary while walking across the Mall, "How's it going?" were not the first words out of his mouth, nor were they "Hey, you!" or just simply "Hello." No, this morning, "He's not guilty!" was the salutation du jour, or "He walked!" or "He's free!" or some variation thereof. It was news if you didn't know, if you hadn't heard. But like the trial itself, there was no way to avoid it.
"I can't believe he got off ..."
"Did you hear? They found him 'not guilty' ..."
"I skipped class to watch it. I can't believe it's over ..."
And so, almost 16 months after millions tuned in to watch O.J. try to outrun authorities in that now trademark white Ford Bronco, millions more watched him mouth a silent "Thank you" at the jury, a jury whose unreturned gaze seemed to seal Simpson's fate of "guilty" less than a day before.
Ironically, the 10 a.m. reading of the verdict was the most un-media-friendly aspect of this most public of legal love affairs. Newspapers clamored for the Redundancy of the Century, putting out "special issues" with 200-point "NOT GUILTY!" headlines, a "for the record" en masse formality.
For almost 16 months, O.J.'s relation to this section has been merely the story of another star athlete gone wrong, perhaps the mother of them all. Combined with the hype of the trial, his background of sport and entertainment made him a veritable Everyman of the news. His accomplishment in sports is really meaningless now, as it should be. After all, a killer may still be on the loose.
So when you unroll that copy of the morning paper, when you pull open the door to that newspaper vending machine, remember one thing:
O.J. was not news today.
Monty Phan is the sports editor of the Arizona Daily Wildcat. His column appears weekly.
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