GOLF WITH O.J. SIMPSON
Late 1995. Encino, California.
My friend & fellow Chicago native, Bob Wagner & I decided to play golf at a San Fernando Valley Park District course called Encino/Balboa. We pay our fees, collect our cart & head to the first tee.
On the tee is a mid 30’s & very fit African American cat in running gear and a black, sun faded, generic lightweight carry bag. Royal blue Nike tank top & matching short running shorts.
We introduce ourselves & shake hands.
Me: Is there a 4th or are they just sending us out as a threesome?
Running guy: I’m a single.
Me: OK, let’s tee it & if someone gets here before we take off, they can join us. Otherwise, we’ll go out as a three.
Bob & Running guy nod in agreement. As I’m pulling a worn Titleist Tour Balata 100 & a blonde long tee from my pocket, I see a guy approaching us. I elbow Wagner.
Me: (Whispering) Hey! and I nod.
It’s O.J. Simpson, whom, nearly a year earlier was exiled from L.A.’s fabled Riviera Country Club before his murder trial ever began. (Evidently he wasn’t really The Riv’s look anymore). He was just recently acquitted in the criminal trial, but hadn’t yet started the civil trial.
As he’s walking up, I notice he’s looking more like his former $300,000+ country club membership than this cow pasture we’re playing. Perfect, snow white & brown, leather soled Foot Joy saddle shoes, tailored tan trousers, a matching, cashmere sweater vest, white polo & a khaki unbranded visor.
Wagner: (whispering) Nathan. There is no fucking way I’m playing with that murderer
Me: (Whispering) Oh YES you are.
Wagner: (Still whispering) No fucking way.
Me: Fine, then take a cab home. I drove & I want the story.
Wagner: Fuck you.
O.J.: (All smiles. Loud & enthusiastic) Hey Fellas! How you doing?!
No one says shit at first. I put my hands in my pockets. I’ll play a round of golf with a pariah, but I’m not shaking his hand.
Me: Oh. Hey.
O.J. to running guy: How you doin, brother?
Running guy refuses to make eye contact. He looks pissed & quietly mutters while rifling though his bag.
Running guy: I’m not YOUR brother, motherfucker.
O.J. goes from all smiles to super scary. He is PISSED.
O.J.: (Booming) SAY WHAT???
Running Guy stands & takes 3 or 4 giant strides, steps to O.J., and leans in, nose to nose with him.
Running Guy: I SAID. I’M NOT. YOUR BROTHER. MOTHERFUCKER.
Things are what you might call awkward at this point.
O.J. picks up his tour sized, white vinyl Cleveland Golf bag. The kind of golf bag that you could fit a catholic family into. The kind of golf bag only touring pros and other guys who never have to pick one up would own. His name was embroidered in shiny black thread. He picks up the bag & starts to walk away. Except, when he gets maybe 40 feet away, he 180’s on his heels, puts his bag down & shoots running guy a physically aggressive look. He may be ready to fight.
Running guy puts his arms out like Jesus, (only palms up), his eyes widen and he quickly slaps both of his pectoral muscles HARD, outstretches his arms again, looks O.J. squarely in the eyes and says…
Running guy: SUP???
O.J., knowing his bluff had been called, walks away fuming.
Running guy: (muttering to no one in particular). Fuck that motherfucker.
Our first few holes were pretty quiet. No one brought him up for the rest of the round & we saw him here & there on neighboring fairways playing with another group.