April 24, 2014

Tarnished Heisman: A Book Review

Don Yaeger and Jim Henry have put together the book which recounts the explosive allegations of the Reggie Bush scandal. Bush is the 2005 Heisman Trophy winning running back from The University of Southern California and first round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints.

In Tarnished Heisman: Did Reggie Bush Turn His Final College Season into a Six-Figure Job? Yaeger andTarnished Heisman Henry use investigative journalism to piece together what is arguably the biggest college football story in the past three years, dating back to the season in which Reggie Bush won his Heisman Trophy. Yaeger and Hill depend on court testimony, public documents, eye witness testimony, recorded conversations, as well as personal interviews. Personal Interviews were largely conducted with those who implicated Bush in the receiving of improper benefits during his third year at USC as those who could defend Bush did not return requests for interviews with the authors.

Although the authors use personal interviews from its main accuser, Lloyd Lake, they acknowledge the biases that are inherent. They state that every journalist wishes that their source had the character of Mother Teresa, but the reality is they do not. Lloyd is a convicted felon who has been characterized as a career criminal. To their credit, they piece together their evidence, as if they were creating a mosaic, to paint a picture of Reggie Bush and his parents as taking out a loan on Bush’s future success in the NFL during his Junior year at USC. I am not sure why, but some of the evidence that is extremely damning, like a lease agreement between Bush’s family and a businessman, are posted at the book’s website rather than featured in the book. They do offer some of the transcripts of tapes made by Lake when he had conversations with Bush and his step-father, LaMar Griffin.

Much of the story revolves around New Era Sports & Entertainment, a sports agency that was to use the signing of Reggie Bush for the 2006 NFL Draft as a cornerstone to market itself with other professional athletes. Lake, the founder of the agency, alleges that the Bush family was involved in the development of the agency. In fact, as the book points, it was even Reggie Bush’s idea as a way to recoup some of the fee money required by those who would represent him. As a part owner, some of the fees for representation would return to the family, thereby saving costs and receiving a return on Bush’s value.

The authors, probably understanding how difficult it can be to keep up with all of the characters, offer a Cast of Characters addition in the back of the book with names and descriptions of all who were involved in the story. Also included is a Timeline of Events in which the events of the story unfold including those that pertain to New Era Sports, the failed sports agency which tried to sign Reggie Bush for the 2006 NFL Draft. Finally, there is an addition to the end of the book entitled A New Era of Spending which outlines the alleged payments to Reggie Bush and his family beginning in December 2004.

The bigger picture involved in this story is the poverty of athletes. Some might call it a perceived poverty. For their work on the football field, whether they score a touchdown or not, scholarship athletes in football receive a free education and room and board. Many have called for athletes to be given stipends or some form of payment to help with living expenses as many are from very poor families and can not afford certain expenses. Some believe that athletes such as Bush generate even more revenue for the school than it normally would have gained. Therefore, why should athletes struggle financially while the network executives and school officials enjoy the fruit of the athlete’s labor? This is a debate for another post, however, one must remember that college athletics, even if the schools and TV networks are getting richer because of their performances, are an amateur sports. The athletes are allowed to work during the summers to save money for those expenses during the school year. Cool cars and expensive apartments off campus probably should not be considered necessary expenses.

You can buy a copy of the book at my bookstore. Under the browse by category click on My Picks.