CHICAGO – It’s almost too much to imagine what the moment would have been like in the social media era.
A major star of sports and entertainment, accused of a horrific crime, on a major roadway in California, on a slow chase with police. Those who weren’t alive yet or not paying attention can’t imagine the magnitude of OJ Simpson’s race to his home.
Cameras, choppers, people in their cars stopping on the road, fans that gathered near the Brentwood estate of the former NFL star and Hollywood actor, along with the millions watching at home. Everything took a back seat to the Simpson pursuit as Los Angeles police sought to bring him into custody after he was charged with the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
It was June 17, 1994. It was a day like no other primarily thanks to Simpson.
The chase in the white Bronco started a saga that would continue through a long trial over the next year-and-a-half before it eventually ended in his acquittal on October 3, 1995.
It all began on this Friday, one in which included a number of significant sports moments that was actually documented in an ESPN film in 2010. Simpson’s situation was paramount, but that happened during Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Knicks and Rockets in New York.
Earlier in the day in the Big Apple, the city saluted the Rangers’ with a ticker-tape parade after their first championship in 54 years. A 64-year old Arnold Palmer also played his final round in a US Open as well.
Yet Chicago had just as big a part in this bizarre sports day as much as any other. It gets lost for some in the Simpson drama, but the Windy City hosted a true moment in United States sports history early that afternoon.
In a highly produced show, the 1994 World Cup opened up at Soldier Field on June 17th on a warm day in front of a sellout crowd about to see history made. The country would host the world’s most important soccer tournament for the first time, selected by FIFA in 1988 to host as an attempt to grow the game in America.
Oprah Winfrey was the emcee of the event, with President Bill Clinton giving the official welcome to the teams and fans to the month-long competition.
Diana Ross performed four songs during an eight-minute set that included an errant penalty kick as part of the opening sequence. Richard Marx had the National Anthem, and the tournament was underway. It was a spectacle, as many expected from an American show, and it didn’t disappoint before the first game was played.
Then the 63,117 in attendance watched the opening match of play, with a unified German team facing Bolivia in the contest.
Jurgen Klinsmann, who would later coach the United States Men’s National Team from 2011-2016 including their appearance in the 2014 World Cup, scored the game’s only goal in what was a surprise 90 minutes on the warm Soldier Field pitch. A heavy favorite, Germany would manage only a 1-0 win from a competitive Bolivia squad.
The defending champions were later dethroned in the round of eight by the tournament’s “Cinderella” team Bulgaria.
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This Chicago moment on June 17, 1994 turned 25 years old on Monday, and it won’t be the one remembered forever on this day. But something special did happen in the Windy City and shouldn’t be forgotten, even if the attention of the world was chased away later in the day.