Twenty years ago this week, O.J. Simpson stopped being that former football guy running through airports in the Hertz commercial and began his transformation into the man who got away with murder.
Twenty years! Twenty years since the media circus that has become de rigueur in high-profile crimes. Twenty years since the bloody glove, the if-it-doesn’t-fit-you-must-acquit. Twenty years since the Time Photoshopping brouhaha. Twenty years since Judge Lance Ito and his collection of clocks. Twenty years since the name Kardashian meant a member of the Dream Team and not the first family of reality entertainment.
The murder was all over the newspapers — no viral Internet and Twitter sharing way back in those dark ages. That slow-speed chase in the white Bronco happened the night before the summer break my freshman year of college. The trial was perpetually blaring in the dorm’s common TV room. The verdict was read while I sat in a Women and Law seminar, wondering what the hell was wrong with my fellow female students who were cheering the acquittal.
Man, I’m getting old.
Last week marked the 30-year anniversary of the game Tetris. I remember that clearly, too. I recall sitting in front of the television, video game controller in hand, listening to that irritating music grow faster and faster as the small shapes refused to fit together and the stack piled up toward failure.
This of course brings back the memory of those months my brother and I drank Capri-Sun every day in our school lunches so we could collect the specially marked packages and earn money at K·B Toys to buy the Nintendo system on which the aforementioned Tetris was played. I think the Maui punch flavor earned the most and I never want to drink anything similar ever again.
I must be even older than I thought.
Commemorations are an important way to ensure that certain milestones never go forgotten. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon. The Sept. 11 attacks. The birth of the Twinkie. So maybe that last one isn’t as momentous but chances are pop culture dates capture the attention just as much if not arguably more than the Big Moments in history.
Or maybe it’s just that a lot of those ascribed Big Moments don’t have the same suckerpunch effect as realizing so much time has passed since a key childhood experience or a daily used object like the microwave or cellphone came into being. And Google? Who remembers life before Google?
Former President Ronald Reagan’s 2004 death just hit its 10-year anniversary. Frankly, I didn’t even read any of the coverage. But when the movies “WarGames” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” reached the multi-decade mark I certainly paid some attention. The Rubik’s Cube turned 40. Those movies were from my younger days. Those movies are now getting older. Hence, I felt a little longer in the tooth, too.
Every year, Beloit College issues its Mindset List which tries illustrating the world view of incoming college freshmen by describing their world. For the Class of 2017 — otherwise known as kids born in 1995 — this means tidbits like “they could always get rid of their outdated toys on eBay” or with GPS all they ever need is an address rather than actual directions. A tablet? Not just a pill anymore.
Historical anniversaries are kind of like that list — a reminder not only of what has happened but that some of us have been around long enough to actually remember them.
And who knows what will actually be recalled in another 20 years. Maybe O.J. will have finally tracked down the real killer.
Michelle Durand’s column “Off the Beat” runs every Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached by email: email@example.com or by phone (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. What do you think of this column? Send a letter to the editor: firstname.lastname@example.org.