Sunday, March 30, 2008

Book Review: Tarnished Heisman

Major professional athletes, especially the ones who appear at the top of their sport in some fashion, frequently make a lot of money. Many of them also come from less advantaged families. There is, in American professional sports, a somewhat odd interval in these athletes' careers when they are seemingly destined for professional stardom yet unable to enjoy the benefits thereof. Tarnished Heisman by Don Yaeger and Jim Henry is about how Reggie Bush and his family decided that those rules governing the lack of ability to enjoy the benefits didn't apply to them.

Tarnished Heisman is, of course, not the first place the benefits flowing to Bush and his family have been discussed; Yahoo Sports' Jason Cole and Charles Robinson are the people I remember breaking all the stories. And that's the biggest problem with this book. It's a useful compendium of the available evidence that Bush and his family took a lot of money in benefits they weren't allowed to take under NCAA rules, but Yaeger and Henry tread little new ground. It's better documented than generally brief online news articles, with more at the book's website, but I didn't see any new revelations. Their most original contribution may be an interview with Charley Casserly, GM of the Houston Texans when they unexpectedly took Mario Williams #1 overall ahead of Bush. Casserly casts the decision as primarily a football one, but acknowledges that Bush's benefits problems, which surfaced shortly before the 06 draft, and his response thereto (hint: if the GM of the team who may be about to draft you #1 overall asks you to call him, don't make him wait 36 hours).

Problem #2: the vast majority of the evidence in the book is not about Reggie Bush himself, but his family. Reggie apparently demanded a car and after-market enhancements to the car; more documentation of this would have been nice. Also, Bush's stepfather admits to taking cash. From whom, and for what, if anything? The authors of the book don't discuss cash payments from their primary sources to Reggie, but do reference them coming from Bush's other connections. The big deal in the original Cole/Robinson article was a San Francisco trip for Bush's family to see USC play Cal. There's evidence (allegations, primarily) about a night out in San Diego. The behavior of Bush's family is in the same area of sketchiness as LeBron James' mother's Hummer, but that doesn't mean Reggie's behavior was as bad.

Problem #3: there's really not enough material for a full book. Tarnished Heisman clocks in at 241 pages, and is replete with multiple page transcriptions of conversations, whole chapters that don't reference the core allegations, timelines, etc. A tighter book could be half as long and have all the same substance. I know, it's probably harder to publish and sell a 120 page book, especially for a $26.00 list price. Still, this was a library rental, and I'd feel ripped off if I'd paid money for it.

Some other notes:
--Some of the problems that led to all this becoming public were just a matter of settling business expectations among potential partners. This is something I see all the time in that whole day job thing. And it's frequently to the benefit of one party to string the other party along. This isn't, or at least shouldn't be, a surprise. Plus, I'm often like to repeat the mantra that one should never attribute to incompetence that which is easily attributable to stupidity or, in this case, incompetence or lack of professional experience.
--One of the critiques about the accusations against Bush and his family is that one of the key accusers, Lloyd Lake is, shall we say, unsavory. Yes, he is, and clearly so, a point the authors admit and don't try to refute. Still, the good and the virtuous, or at least the not-unsavory, do not have a monopoly on truth. Lake's points need to be evaluated on their merits, not just on his reputation, and those merits seem to be relatively solid.

Bottom line: unless you're inordinately fascinated by the Reggie Bush scandal, this book isn't worth your time. There's just not enough substance, and no greater insight.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Status Note

Those of you who are fans of the Georgetown Hoyas and/or college basketball statistical analysis that focuses on a single team may wish to check out Hoya Prospectus, which I am currently running. Unfortunately for this site, that probably means no really in-depth posts until early to mid-April, depending on how far the Hoyas progress along The Road to San Antonio. I will still be doing my normal intermittent blogging along with the rest of the crew over at Total Titans, so check that out for all your Titans news.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Who Is Mike Reinfeldt

I have a new post up at Total Titans on GM Mike Reinfeldt's comments to the Nashville Rotary Club. His comments are well worth reading in full, or you can just recommend my post for what I think are the highlights.

Monday, March 03, 2008

College Football Blogs

Today, the 2007 College Football Blogger Awards were announced, and I'd like to highlight three of the winners. First, the Best Recurring Feature award went to EDSBS for its Fulmer Cup feature. SMQ, who gave out the award, also noted MGoBlog's UFR, which might, not inaccurately, be called this blog's raison d'etre in its current incarnation*. I can't help but quote much of what SMQ writes on UFR:
he only evidence anyone should need to confirm the devotion and smarts it takes to pull off such an undertaking on a consistent basis is the complete absence of anyone else - mainstream, blogger or otherwise - who even tries. And if someone with the same freakish obsession and attention to detail about their team is out there, they're not doing it with remotely the zest of MGoBlog.

AFAIK, I'm the only person who's done UFR more than about twice. Yes, I will be returning to this project in the coming months.

The second award I'd like to point out is Best Analysis, which goes to a well-deserving SMQ, in whose honor this award could be named, because he'd win it every single year. SMQ is a veritable cornucopia of college football information and analysis, and, like EDSBS and MGoBlog, well-deserving of its place on the sidebar.

The third and final award I wish to point out is the Best Analysis (Post) award, and it went to . . . yet another blog on the blogroll. Specifically, the post on The Divide Route in the Multiple-Smash Concept by Chris of Smart Football. I'm ashamed I didn't link to this post specifically, though I did mention I'd bookmarked everything he'd written for months. True, not so much in terms of volume of posts, but the quality ratio is just awesome.

*-Originally, this blog was for posts too long and/or spoiler-ish and/or outre for my other blog. In that case, "Residual Prolixity" as a name made perfect sense. Now, well, it doesn't, though it is distinctive.