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Anyone seeking lessons in the sad, bizarre saga of O.J. Simpson need not look far.

One lesson is that an outstanding performance on the athletic field does not always translate into an outstanding performance off the field. Speed and charisma are no substitute for judgment and character, particularly self-control. Consequently, young people need to be careful about picking sports idols as role models. That goes particularly for idols in sports like football and boxing, both of which involve violence as well as finesse.Another lesson is that wealth and fame do no guarantee personal happiness. A smiling face can conceal great pain and inner turmoil. That's one reason problems like domestic violence cut across all social and economic classes.

Consequently, an engrossed public needs to remember more than just the emotional note hinting at suicide that was left by Simpson and the unusual, low-speed chase that led to his capture.

It also needs to remember the slain bodies of his ex-wife and her male friend. It needs to remember the history of spouse abuse on O.J. Simpson's part that was brought to national attention by these shocking slayings. Moreover, it needs to recognize the seriousness of the overall domestic violence problem and then resolve to help end it.

That means more than just realizing that somewhere in this country a woman is beaten by her husband or boyfriend on the average of every 15 seconds, that more than one in three Americans have witnessed an incident of domestic violence and that such violence destroys families and contributes to juvenile delinquency.

It means raising and discussing the problem at team meetings, church functions, book clubs and other community gatherings. It means willingly paying taxes for more shelters for battered women. It means calling the police, not turning up the TV set, when the argument next door escalates into threats and cries. And it means more education for physicians, 61 per cent of whom have no training in recognizing or handling a victim of domestic violence.

Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women, ahead of traffic accidents, muggings and rapes combined. A third of all women murder victims were killed by men they knew as husbands or friends. Half of all homeless women and children are on the street because of the fear of violence against them at home.

May Americans devote at least as much attention and care to these lesser-known tragedies as they have to the one involving O.J. Simpson.