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Reggie Bush still can’t say the magic word — sorry

Chances are former USC star Reggie Bush is/was not the only Heisman Trophy winner to have taken improper benefits while participating as an amateur athlete in college.

That was going to be the indignation column, contemplated at one time, before there became nothing about Reggie Bush worthy of being contemplated.

Now we say: There are other Heisman crooks out there … so what?

The Bush bottom line becomes this: He was the first Heisman winner to get caught on scholarship, and Tuesday he paid the ultimate price by announcing he was forfeiting his 2005 trophy.

Bush’s decision, released via a statement on the New Orleans Saints’ website, smacks of a face-saving move that allows the player another avenue of contrived contrition, while sparing the Heisman Trust the task of having to strip a player of the award for the first time in history.

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Bush’s announcement came the same day the Heisman’s eight-member trust was meeting.

Connect these dots: Yahoo! Sports reported last week the trust was going to strip Bush of the award by the end of the month. A Heisman spokesman vehemently denied that report and put out a statement saying no decision had been made.

So now Yahoo! technically had the story wrong, yet Bush is forfeiting the trophy.

It worked out well — for the semantics society and public relations directors.

In other words, it was nice Bush gave the trophy back before it was taken from him.

For as big as this news is, Bush’s decision is strangely anticlimactic. Maybe it’s just Bush fatigue. Tuesday, he forfeited a trophy, but he long ago relinquished his credibility (and likeability) when the facts proved him to be guilty and the perpetrator of a years-long cover-up.

USC essentially conceded the essentials in its appeal of the NCAA sanctions that were handed down in June. The Trojans admitted violations involving Bush and are only contesting the severity of the punishment.

USC immediately distanced itself from Bush, sent its copy of the Heisman Trophy back and removed his name from the record books.

With Bush already ostracized and isolated, losing the Heisman Trophy is far less jarring. It was just the last, logical step.

Bush’s lack of contrition, however, continues to amaze. Nowhere in his statement does he say it was wrong to break NCAA rules.

He did say, “The persistent media speculation regarding allegations dating back to my years at USC has been both painful and distracting.”

What allegations?

Would he care to correct the inaccuracies in reporting, or in the NCAA report?

Bush would do himself a favor by, for once, admitting the truth.

He tries to curry sympathy in his statement by saying he will work with the Heisman Trustees to assist student-athletes and their families to avoid “some of the mistakes that I made.”

Bush’s advice to kids: “Beware persistent media speculation that can be both painful and distracting.”

Bush left a legacy that is indefensible.

Any truthful examination of his misdeeds would include a heartfelt apology for throwing the university he says he loves under the bus. And for what: a few trinkets in the months before he was going to become a millionaire.

It would have easy to declare the Heisman Trust hypocrites for taking a trophy from a guy who broke rules, while allowing winners who broke laws to keep theirs.

The fact that O.J. Simpson is sitting in jail, with a Heisman vote, could have been a column in itself.

Billy Cannon, the 1959 winner from Louisiana State, spent time in jail. Nebraska winner Johnny Rodgers once robbed a gas station. Anyone think 1956 winner Paul Hornung was a saint?

But Bush, through his pettiness and selfishness, sucked all the oxygen out of the argument.

It is impossible to feel sorry for Reggie Bush, maybe ever, but the least he could do is make us try.

He ultimately got rich and earned a Super Bowl ring while leaving USC on probation, with innocent players paying for his sins with a two-year bowl ban.

It took a lot for Bush to go from an admired athlete to one with seemingly so little genuine lack of remorse, but he did it.

Bush is so callous he hasn’t even done the traditional television sit-down complete with crocodile tears — the sure-fire path to forgiveness in America.

It seems Bush still doesn’t know why he should be sorry.

So why should we care?

chris.dufresne@latimes.com


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