What a hero


TODAY WE could explore any number of strange angles on the O. J. Simpson saga.

We could talk about the Fuhrman mess.

This "retired cop" is politically just to the right of Hitler, and intellectually six steps behind Forrest Gump.

Or we could compare the budgets of the O. J. trial and "Waterworld."

As of this writing, the movie "Waterworld" is still slightly more expensive.

But what I'd really like to do is talk about O. J. Simpson's spelling.

Think back to the year 1 of O. J. -- that is, the summer of 1994.

Remember when O. J.'s friend Robert Kar--ian appeared before the assembled media to read O. J.'s "To Whom It May Concern" letter? Remember how Mr. Kar--ian, an educated and articulate man, stumbled over many words and struggled to find the right inflection?

Turns out it's because the handwritten letter was riddled with errors of spelling and grammar -- errors you wouldn't expect a 10-year-old to make.

"I loved her," Mr. Simpson wrote of Nicole. "Allways have . . . if we had a promblem its because I loved her so much. Recitly we came to the understanding that for now we wern't right for each other at least for now. Dispite our love we were diffearnt and thats why we murturally agreesd to go our spaerate ways. It was tough spitting for a second time . . ."

I count at least a dozen basic errors in that excerpt from the first paragraph of the letter.

Now I understand that Mr. Simpson was under tremendous stress when he sat down to scribble, but still . . .

"I took the heat New Years Eve 1989 because that what I suppose to do I did not plea no contest for any other reason but to protect our privicy and was advise it would end the press hype."

What's equally troubling is that more than a year after the fact, this may be the first time you've seen the excerpts quoted verbatim, because virtually every news organization in the country cleaned up Mr. Simpson's language.

Newsweek's editors not only corrected his spelling mistakes, but they also restructured some sentences for clarity's sake.

Forget for a moment the self-pitying tone of the letter, in which Mr. Simpson barely mentioned his late ex-wife and their two children but found the time and space to thank 22 of his jock friends and golfing partners.

Forget the raging debate about whether he's guilty or innocent.

Just think for a moment about a 47-year-old man -- a University of Southern California alumnus, a TV commentator and film actor who made his post-sports living as a communicator, who tasted all the riches the world has to offer -- but apparently never learned to write beyond the third-grade level.

It's sad that anyone would consider such a man to be a hero or role model, even if he had never been charged with anything more serious than jaywalking.

Richard Roeper is a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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