“He … could … go … all … the … way!” — Catchphrase for a touchdown run in-progress made famous by sportscaster Chris Berman
Orenthal James Simpson was born in 1947 in a San Francisco housing project. He was soon dubbed “O.J.”
His father was a drag queen, literally. His parents divorced and he was raised by his mother. His father later died of AIDS.
O.J. developed rickets as a child, which is typically caused by a vitamin deficiency. He wore braces on his legs and had the weak-boned bow-leggedness that is a characteristic of rickets survivors.
He joined a gang at age 13. He was arrested three times by age 15 and was briefly incarcerated in a juvenile facility. He married at 18. He was a father at 21.
About that time, he became a superstar college football player and was the runaway winner of the Heisman Trophy. Coming out of college, he was the No. 1 choice in the pro draft.
O.J. was named an All Pro six times, the Most Valuable Player in the league once and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was one of the greatest.
But not in all ways. He was once arrested for beating his second wife. After they divorced, he was arrested for the gruesome murder of her and her date. In a racially charged trial, the jury acquitted him.
He was then sued by the victims’ parents in a civil action for wrongful death. The civil jury found that he did commit the murders and held him liable for $33 million.
He lost everything. He even sold his trophies. He was later arrested for robbery and kidnapping in trying to steal them back from a souvenir dealer. For that, he served nine years in the penitentiary.
Last month, he was granted parole. This fall, at age 70, he will be free at last.
So O.J., how will you spend your last dozen or so years in this world?
I’m reminded of another criminal, Charles Colson. He was President Richard Nixon’s hatchet man and a central Watergate figure. While his boss received a presidential pardon, Colson went to the penitentiary.
But as between Nixon and Colson, it was Colson who was the lucky one. Nixon lived out his years as a pariah — a living dead — but Colson was born again.
After serving his sentence, Colson started a ministry for prison inmates called Prison Fellowship. He received 15 honorary degrees and was awarded the Templeton Prize, the highest prize in America for religious service. He donated the million-dollar prize as well as all his speaking and writing royalties to his nonprofit ministry.
You gotta serve somebody.
For half his life, Colson served flawed humans, his own conceit and the tyranny of his insecurity. For the last half of his life, until he died a few years ago, he served something better.
He wrote a book, naturally called “Born Again.” His book explains that it takes a certain humility and courage to recognize that you’re not the master of the universe. In the end, you’re not even the master of yourself.
It takes that same courage to admit that, as good as you may be, there’s something in this universe that is infinitely more than you — something worth serving.
Athletics can help make a boy into an adult male. But it takes more — it takes that courage — to make an adult male into a man.
O.J., you’ve been on top of this earthly world and you’ve been laid low in the hell of prison and shame. Now you have a new life, albeit a short one. Surely the events of the years have given you humility, but do you have that courage? Do you have that courage to serve?
I think you do.
Go for it, Juice. Bring it. Break into the clear. Don’t look back. Escape the darkness and run for daylight.
You … could … go … all … the … way.
(Published Aug. 20, 2017 in the Aspen Times at http://www.aspentimes.com/opinion/glenn-k-beaton-go-all-the-way-juice/)