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That white Ford Bronco

June 17, 2008 - Steve Murch
Do you know what you were doing 14 years ago today? If you were anywhere near a television set during the evening, you likely were watching the slowest car chase ever on a California freeway. June 17, 1994, is the day the white Ford Bronco (the most famous Ford Bronco ever?) carrying O.J. Simpson captured the American TV audience.

The Houston Rockets and New York Knicks were playing in the NBA Finals when NBC interrupted the game to make the announcement that the vehicle, at first allegedly then officially, carrying Simpson was making its way on a California freeway and that the Hall of Fame running back was considered a suspect in the murder of his wife and her friend.

At first NBC continued showing the game with the slow speed chase in a small screen in the corner. Later, the game became the secondary screen. I wondered then, and still do, if anyone was tuned to NBC after that. Everyone I knew switched to a channel that was showing “the chase” exclusively.

The stations that carried the chase aired the local broadcasts and running dialogue of the Los Angeles newscasters. One of the stations had a sportscaster who was a friend of Simpson’s. At one point he asked Simpson to turn himself in. Even back then when it happened I was struck by how foolish that statement was. He was in the back of a vehicle driving down the freeway, how in the world was he going to hear a TV broadcast?

The murder case that followed made Court TV something people tuned into, almost must see TV. While there was a cult following for the network before, the Simpson murder trial made it something everyone checked in on.

I remember the day the verdict was read. At the time I was working at Alpena IGA (now Neiman’s Family Market) when the radio station cut to the news and the reading of the verdict. There were 5-6 of us in one of the back rooms standing next to a speaker with the door shut so we could hear the verdict.

It’s strange how some things that in the grand scheme of things don’t have much direct impact on your lives stick with you. Today is a reminder of one of those things. I’m sure the image of that white Ford Bronco is one many of us will never forget.


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