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Infamous return

Simpson shows why he's most reviled sports figure

Posted: Monday September 17, 2007 7:08PM; Updated: Tuesday September 18, 2007 2:32PM
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• O.J., accusers have storied past
O.J.'s Wild Vegas Weekend
Thursday Afternoon
The Goldmans appear on Oprah to defend seizing and publishing Simpson's book, If I Did It, which was released that day.
Thursday, 8 p.m.
Police receive a call from someone who said various sports-related items had been taken from him. He identifies one of the people involved as Simpson.
Thursday Night
Police find Simpson at Palace Station Hotel and Casino, where the incident took place, and name him a possible suspect.
Friday Morning
Police say Simpson is cooperating with the investigation.
Simpson tells CNN that it was a "sting operation" to get some of his things back.
Simpson tells CNN that the accuser called him and agreed the incident was overblown.
Saturday afternoon
If I Did It is the top seller on Amazon.com
Walter Alexander, one of Simpson's alleged accomplices, is arrested at McCarran International Airport and charged with two counts of robbery with a deadly weapon, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit robbery and burglary with a deadly weapon. He was released on his own recognizance.
Sunday Evening
Simpson is arrested and charged with two counts of robbery with a deadly weapon, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, and conspiracy to commit a crime and burglary with a firearm. He is denied bail and transferred to Clark County Detention Center.
An audio tape of the incident is released by TMZ.com. A bail hearing is set for Wednesday.

It's as if O.J. Simpson was afraid that Michael Vick or Adam "Pacman" Jones was a threat to his title of America's Most Reviled Sports Figure, so he decided to get himself back in the news and remind us that when it comes to athletes who have ruined their once-good names, Simpson is still the undisputed heavyweight champion. No one athlete has ever sunk lower than the Juice.

Police are still sorting out the details of the incident in Las Vegas that led to Simpson's arrest on armed robbery charges on Sunday, but what seems clear is that the charmed life he led before the 1994 murders of his ex-wife Nicole and Ron Goldman continues to devolve into something ever more bizarre and pathetic. Simpson may have avoided being convicted of the two murders in an almost unbelievable miscarriage of justice, but he is serving a life sentence of another kind.

According to police, Simpson and several associates broke into a Las Vegas hotel room over the weekend and took several pieces of sports memorabilia, some of which Simpson believed had been stolen from him. Some of the men allegedly were armed, although it is not clear whether Simpson was carrying a weapon, and one of the victims described it as a "home invasion-type robbery."

So there he was after being taken into custody, the formerly beloved football hero who once dashed through airports in Hertz commercials, again being led away in handcuffs, again having his mug shot taken, again appearing before a judge. And here we are, most of us, hoping that this time they'll get him. Be honest. Hasn't it crossed your mind that even if he isn't guilty now, he was surely guilty then? That any prison time he gets for this incident would at least begin to even the score?

Somewhere, maybe only in his most private moments, Simpson must know that's what the public is thinking, just as he must wonder how he got to this place, scuffling around Sin City (the perfect place for him) and, if police accounts and a profanity-filled audio tape are to be believed, strong-arming and terrorizing people like some real-life Tony Soprano. He may have smiled for his booking photo as if it was an 8x10 meant for casting directors, but don't let him fool you -- this is not a happy man.

And why should he be? Every day of his life, Simpson wakes up knowing that he will probably encounter someone, somewhere who will be repulsed by him. Consider his explanation for not calling the authorities when he thought his memorabilia had been stolen from him -- he says that the police don't exactly rush to his aid when he calls on them. Really? Wonder why not? His attempt to release the book If I Did It earlier this year so sickened the general public that his publisher abruptly scrubbed the whole thing. During the Kentucky Derby weekend in May, he and friends left a Louisville restaurant when the owner refused to serve him.

Granted, there are still enough celebrity-crazed folks out there foolish enough to ask Simpson for his autograph or picture, but the Juice can never be sure which reaction he's going to get. Imagine seeing a stranger approach and not being sure whether she's going to kiss you on the cheek or spit in your face. Would you trade your life for O.J. Simpson's?

It's a shame that this isn't enough for Fred Goldman, Ron's bereaved father, who seems as angry and bitter now as he did the day Simpson was acquitted of the murders. Desperately chasing Simpson in a futile effort to collect on the $33 million judgment against him in a wrongful death civil suit will never bring Goldman peace of mind. The only thing that will do that is taking a look at the Juice's sorry existence.

Guilty or not in this latest case, it wouldn't be surprising if Simpson once again escapes a lengthy prison term. The rest of us can only take solace in knowing that the life that O.J. once knew is long gone. Behind bars or not, Simpson's punishment continues, as it will for the rest of his life.

Phil Taylor can be reached at siwriters@simail.com.