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HOT CORNER

A consumer’s guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, heard, observed, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it’s in play here. One exception: No products will be endorsed.

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What: “O.J.: A Study in Black and White”

Where: HBO, Tuesday, 10 p.m.

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When the advance media tape of this documentary arrived in the mail, the reaction was: why?

Why would HBO want to do a special on O.J. Simpson? What is left to say? What is left to show? Every aspect of his story has been played to the limit.

But after taking a look, it became apparent this documentary is not simply a rehash of what happened during Simpson’s double-murder trial or the jury’s not-guilty verdict. Nor is it a typical biography of a celebrity’s life.

It is a study of race relations in America, with Simpson being the focal point.

The show includes plenty about Simpson’s background -- from his struggles as a youngster in San Francisco through his stardom at USC and in the NFL and his success after football.

As for his days as a Trojan, coaches John McKay and Marv Goux were interviewed before their deaths.

“He was a real hero in this city,” McKay said. “I think even UCLA liked him.”

Although Simpson also sat down for an interview, the producers chose not to use it because they felt he had nothing substantial to add.

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It doesn’t really matter, because the documentary is not primarily about Simpson. It’s an examination of a popular black athlete, one readily accepted in white America, and how he polarized this country with a spectacular fall from grace.

At its core is the reaction to the not-guilty verdict -- elation among so many blacks, anger and disgust among so many whites.

In the end, as this documentary aptly points out, Simpson’s bizarre and tragic journey was a painful reminder that the greatest challenge America faces is race.

-- Larry Stewart

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