The hubbub over O.J. Simpson's book and TV special has had me thinking about Pete Rose. As those of you who haven't been vacationing on Mars know, O.J. has agreed to a TV special where he explains how he would have killed Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman -- if he had killed them. (That alone makes me think of the line from a Richard Pryor monologue: ''I was running, but I wasn't really, really running ...'')
Judith Regan, the bottom-feeding publisher behind O.J.'s book, has reportedly called it a confession. It could be. It could also be she's trying to sell books. It could even be that this is all going to add up to another Al Capone's vault -- tantalizing in the extreme, but with not much to it. I mean, if it's really a confession, what's with all the ''if's'' attached? I suppose, even though he has beaten the murder rap, an out-and-out confession could set him up for some other kind of charge. But I can't help but suspect that we're being played.
But let's suppose we're not. Let's suppose that O.J. is really going to offer a murder scenario that fits all the physical details that we know from the crime. As someone who has consistently believed he did the crime -- or, at the very least, was there while someone close to him did it -- a confession won't be satisfying. He will still have walked free for years and presumably will continue to do so. And those who have believed in his innocence will now turn against him. No win, right?
I can think of only two reasons why he would do this (assuming, again, that he is actually going to say something). First, he hopes to sell a bunch of books. And we'll come back to that. Second, he thinks that by putting an end to all the speculation, people will put the whole case aside and let him go on with his life in relative peace. ''Hello, Hertz?'' he will call.
Which brings me to Pete Rose. When he admitted to betting on baseball, he probably thought the same thing. Confess, put an end to it. ''Hello, Hall of Fame?'' Only Pete got a different result. The people who had believed in him all along were disillusioned. The people who thought he had bet on baseball were proven right. He turned out to be just scum -- and the Hall of Fame became even more of a mirage.
If O.J. is confessing, he will end up in much the same place. No redemption here. Just another scuzzy attempt to make some money. So let's talk about that for a sec.
You don't need to watch the TV special. The key moments will be recapped in the news media. Highlights will be rebroadcast on the news channels, and even more of the show will circulate on the Internet.
You don't need to buy the book. You'll read enough of it in news stories to answer any major questions.
And wouldn't that be the best surprise for O.J.? He finally plays a hole card, hoping to cash in. And the pot's empty.