dir. Brett Morgen
June 17, 1994 was a momentous day in sports history: Arnold Palmer played his last professional game (before retiring to the senior circuit), The New York Rangers celebrated their first Stanley Cup win in over fifty years with a ticker tape parade in Manhattan, Ken Griffey Jr. tied Babe Ruth’s record for the most home runs at that point in the season, America hosted its first World Cup, and the long-suffering New York Knicks won game five of the NBA Finals (before eventually losing the series to the Houston Rockets).
Also, a lot of people seemed to care that the multiple LAPD cruisers took a leisurely drive on the Los Angeles freeway in pursuit of a Ford Bronco containing a murder suspect who used to be good at football.
It really is easy to forget the kind of pandemonium surrounding the whole OJ thing. Not to discount a double homicide, but really, this is the shit that people obsessed over back in the 90s? This is the shit people stayed glued to the TV for—a multi-hour slow speed pursuit of a has-been by a bevy of police cruisers and every helicopter at the media’s disposal? Really?
I guess the 90s really were simpler times. I mean I lived through this shit (listen to me—talking about it like I was in the ‘Nam), and I still can’t fathom why this event warranted anymore than—at best—“in strange local news today” status. Not that the news is any different now. I mean, if anything, we’ve gone even further down the crapper as far as the relevance to media attention ratio goes.
I mean, after watching Brett Morgen's June 17, 1994, I really can’t overstate what pointless timewastery this OJ obsession was. In fact, I even forgot that at multiple points along the non-pursuit, hundreds of citizens—tipped off to the trajectory of the slow chase by every available media outlet—lined the highways to gawk, to catch a glimpse of the very important non-news unfolding before them.
Morgen's’s documentary on the subject, as is probably obvious by now, chronicles the media circus surrounding the Bronco chase, intercutting it with all of the more significant sports news of that specific day. Now, as you know, I no longer care about sports, so the fact that the media neglected actual “important” sporting news that day is of no concern to me, but it is amazing that damn near everything else happening that day, including all that random sports shit, was infinitely more interesting than the chase.
Morgen’s film is largely successful because, unlike the media, whose reaction to the OJ event is so aptly chronicled, he is aware of the concept of restraint. Instead of stuffing his film with talking heads detailing to us the significance of all the events, he thankfully goes the Senna route: a series of news clips with no commentary, unfurling the events as if it were a narrative film. And the results, though occasionally suffused with unnecessary emotional queue music, are generally winning.