KRYSTEN OLIPHANT: If you had asked me five years ago if I thought I’d ever feel sorry for Reggie Bush, I’d have laughed in your face. The guy seemed like a spoiled showboat, and he played for one of the teams I hate the most in college sports. Then he became the running back version of Matt Leinart, dating hot celebrities and being known almost more for what clubs he went to and what photos he was in than what he did on the field.
But as much as he frustrates me with his I’m-gonna-run-east-to-west-before-I-actually-gain-yardage nonsense, he was an integral part of the New Orleans Saints’ championship run, and New Orleans is really going to miss him this season. The Saints’ loss to the Falcons this weekend was proof positive of how much they need him in their running game, especially now that Mike Bell is gone.
It’s funny, I was on a rant before the start of the Saints’ MNF game against the 49ers in Week 2, telling my boyfriend that it was absolutely ridiculous to expect Bush to give up his Heisman trophy, an award he clearly won outright ON THE FIELD, because of some off-the-field issues that surrounded not just him but the entire corrupt USC program. The guy was a college star, beyond any shadow of a doubt, and just because he didn’t have the ethics to say no to free gifts doesn’t mean his in-game success is worth any less. And, really, let’s be honest – would any of us have done any differently in his shoes?
It’s one thing for him to publicly apologize for what happened with the Trojans or even to offer to pay some of the money back or donate it to a good cause or something as a good faith offering. But for him to actually voluntarily give up that trophy says so much about him, more than I knew about the guy I thought was just a showoff with speed and quickness. It shows how much he cares about his teammates and keeping the controversy out of their way, how much he really feels bad for doing something he apparently didn’t realize or understand was wrong, and how much he loves the game of football. He doesn’t care about some college award. He just wants to play and let the past be the past. If you want to make someone pay, go find Pete Carroll or Tim Floyd or the adults who were responsible for bribing Reggie and his family. The ones that should be held accountable in this situation aren’t the 17- and 18-year-olds but the people who are targeting them.
Now, after suffering through all of that mess that should have been years behind him by now, he’s out for yet another season with another freak accident. It’s like the guy can’t catch a September break anymore. And he wasn’t even on the cover of Madden 2010!
ALEX PREWITT: While this whole Reggie Bush saga says much about his desire to keep controversy out of the way and a caring attitude toward his teammates, I believe that this says even more about our collective society and our desire to vindicate individuals. It wasn’t enough to simply accept that the past was the past and that, realistically, what Bush did had no bearing on how good at football he was. That’s not to say that he shouldn’t have taken the money — the NCAA is corrupt enough without stuff like this happening — or shouldn’t have come clean earlier. But the fact that people called for Bush to give back his trophy is staggering and, quite frankly, upsetting.
The Heisman Trophy isn’t supposed to be a beacon of morality. It’s given to the best player in college football. That’s it. No strings attached. Reggie Bush was, hands down, the best player in college football that season; the statistics speak for themselves.
Somehow, along the way, we decided that Reggie Bush needed to give up the trophy, as if it would somehow make amends for crippling the USC program. And now, even though he did, that’s not enough. A columnist for the Cornell student newspaper wrote that Reggie Bush’s recently injury was nothing more than karma punishing him for the controversy. Funny, I thought it was his inability to catch punts.
In any case, it’s no longer become about football and Reggie Bush’s prowess on the field. It’s about something bigger, about legacy and about pride. USC gave up Bush’s Heisman Trophy because the school wanted to rid itself of the memories of who they deemed to be a cheat. In all this, though, I think we’ve forgotten about just how good he was as a Trojan.