One of the many remarkable aspects of Ezra Edelman’s breathtaking 2016 documentary O.J.: Made in America, which is re-airing on ESPN2 this week, is just what a void of a character was at its center. Sure, O.J. Simpson’s background is compelling — the son of a drag queen who ultimately died of AIDS, whose mother and childhood sweetheart guided him through life in the San Francisco projects, escaping poverty and strife through determination and talent to ultimately become one of the greatest football players of all time. But Simpson decided pretty early that he wanted nothing to do with the civil-rights battles of his time, that he was going to focus instead on himself and himself only. This choice was prescient in certain ways, namely about the money you might squeeze out of fame, but shallow in so many others, and the choice seems even more striking when you see the way star athletes like LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and Serena Williams have handled their own particular political moments. Instead, O.J. became just another shithead athlete who believes the entire world revolves around him.
That we remain so fascinated with O.J. — and I am as guilty of this as anyone, being a dutiful Gen-Xer and all — is a result of the forces he unleashed rather than anything specific to the man himself. The only thing interesting about Simpson is how disassociated he seems from the crimes that he committed and the firestorm he set off, as if he can will himself to believe that his life can just go on as it always did, with golf, memorabilia shows, and old football stories filling his days and everyone yelling out “Juice!” every time they see him. It’s probably an indictment of our culture that he can and does still get happily catcalled, but it’s also a remarkable sign of sociopathy that he might believe, at this point, that those cheers are reality. At this point, Simpson’s lack of accountability for his own crimes is connected to that same lack of self-awareness; once he’s convinced himself he didn’t commit the crimes, he can basically convince himself of anything. The misogyny and rage that still drove him is as locked off to him as the crimes themselves. It’s little wonder he still thinks he’s the old O.J.
Simpson’s absence from the public conversation for the last decade — which will happen when you spend nine years in prison — has, along with the documentary and Ryan Murphy’s lauded miniseries about the trial (despite Cuba Gooding Jr.’s mostly weak representation of him), only increased public fascination with him: We talk so much about him, still, 25 years later that you forget he’s a real, live person walking around the planet. And his life is just so, so strange.
Which is why O.J.’s new Twitter account may be the best thing to wean us off O.J. once and for all. Launched at @therealoj32 on June 14, almost 25 years to the day of the murders, it features the closest look we’ve had at O.J. in those 25 years. And guess what? It turns out O.J. is just another yammering old boomer, a jock gone to seed, desperate for attention but lacking anything to offer anymore. Turns out: O.J. is boring as shit.
He started the account in full troll mode, another nod to his old pal and generational cohort (O.J. is one year younger than Trump), not just with the date of its inception but also a faux-ominous declaration that O.J. “had some getting even to do.” But since then, Simpson’s tweets seem less like score-settling and more like the ramblings of an addled mind wandering aimlessly through cobwebs — basically your grandfather’s Facebook account. There’s a sleepy claim that he never slept with Kris Jenner. There are dreamy nostalgic retweets of his old football highlights (from a Barstool account!). There’s a tweet honoring Michael Jackson — that lack of self-awareness again. There are a surprising number of surface-level analyses of fantasy football, as if Simpson is trying to audition for a side gig on some sort of gambling site, which doesn’t seem all that improbable. (A parody Simpson account claims that O.J. sent him knife emojis in a direct message, but there’s plenty of reason to be skeptical of that claim, not that we shouldn’t treat claims from a parody Twitter account as sacred script.) He follows only his lawyer, his son, and some Buffalo Bills and USC sports accounts (along with poor Tim Graham, the excellent Bills beat reporter for the Athletic). He’s not even verified, in case you were wondering where, exactly, Twitter draws that line.
He is an entirely unexceptional follow, not even worth the side-eye you get from your friends when they see you’re following him. Even the practice of looking forward to his tweets solely to see all the responses hammering him — a sensation akin to following Darren Rovell’s tweets — has lost much of its pleasure, though I suppose there is occasional bemusing value in Simpson’s lawyer chiming in to defend him. Simpson just doesn’t have anything interesting to say. It’s becoming increasingly clear he never did.
There is, really, only one thing O.J. Simpson could say that would hold any sort of public interest, and the minute he said it (for real this time), we’d lose the final reason to pay any attention to him at all. Assuming he never gets there, his account — finally seeing the “real” O.J. for maybe the first time — reveals the pathetic truth about O.J.: He’s just a retired jock reminiscing about the good old days, delusionally convinced that any opinion he has holds endless interest to everyone inside and outside his orbit. This is connected again to Simpson’s sociopathy and megalomania: He still sees all of this as something that happened to him, rather than the result of anything he has done. He’s the only star of his own show. That Herculean narcissism looks particularly familiar these days.
Twitter has a way of showing everyone’s asses, of revealing, intentionally or otherwise, the real person underneath. O.J. Simpson is a dull, self-indulgent old man screaming for his own relevance, and nothing else. He truly is the superstar of his generation. He wanted to show us the Real O.J. on Twitter. Now that we’ve seen it, he’ll never be as compelling again. The emperor had no clothes all along. They rarely do.