Dietlin: To My Little Brother & Reggie Bush—Sorry, not Sorry

Many mistakes in life can be forgiven without an apology; what Reggie Bush did to USC cannot

Posted on June 17, 2020

  By Mik Dietlin, SuperWest Sports

I would like to publicly apologize to my younger brother for pushing him against the wall heater in our hallway 50 years ago. He attempted to flee after taking my football, and the only recourse I had was to drive him into the wall, which, unfortunately, had a heater attached to it.

I understand that I not only created a bruise because of the shove, but also rendered him psychologically imbalanced for a few hours afterward. I also must apologize for any discomfort experienced by members of my family for the thundering noise caused by my thoughtless actions.

I could never have imagined that, many years later, the incident would, in a strange way, mimic one of the most famous plays in USC history, or that I would be apologizing for my illegal behavior inside our home. I broke the house rule.

I know 50 years is a long time to keep from disclosing your involvement in a distasteful act, but the main thing is I’ve now made an apology, right? I need to say it.

I’m sorry.

I certainly don’t need an apology from Reggie Bush for pushing Matt Leinart into the end zone against Notre Dame, and sealing the victory. Whatever it takes to get a win against those Leprechauns is fine by me.


Reggie Bush pushes Matt Leinart into the end zone. | Photo By Matt Cashore-US PRESSWIRE


But do I need him to apologize for almost single-handedly squeezing the life out of the football program because of his actions precipitating the devastating sanctions that were to plague the Trojans for years?

Again, no. I don’t.

In an age when public apologies ring about as true as Josef Stalin admitting on his deathbed that “mistakes were made” during his reign of terror, I’d rather be spared the overt insincerity.

We’ve become so expert in the phony apology that it’s impossible gauging true candor. Even if accompanied by a flood of tears, the modern public apology always occurs after the rot is uncovered. Emotions appear real, but in reality are hollow.

We are only sorry we got caught.

Paradoxically, our demand for the public apology is so ravenous that those expected to apologize, for the sake of their own sanity in the storm of social humiliation, have learned to immunize themselves against the pain of real remorse. It’s no longer difficult standing before the world and admit wrong doing. It’s become as casual a habit as taking out the garbage.

People are much more believable apologizing for someone, quickly rising to center stage to save the day. That’s how anxious we are ensuring this charade of smoothing out offensive conduct gets done.

So in that spirit, I think I’ll apologize for Reggie Bush.

I’m sorry LaMar Griffin, Reggie’s stepfather, had a friend named Lloyd Lake.

I’m sorry Lloyd Lake was an ex-con.


Graphic courtesy The Orange County Register.


I’m sorry Lake provided a home for Griffin and Reggie’s mother Denise, a used car, money, and clothing for Reggie, as well as other perks in exchange for Reggie’s signature to have Lake represent him as his agent when Reggie turned pro.

I’m sorry Reggie and his family couldn’t wait a few years to sign that document.

I’m sorry USC’s compliance department failed to check the incomplete registration for Reggie’s new vehicle.

I’m sorry USC’s compliance department and Pete Carroll failed to investigate the Griffin’s new living arrangements in San Diego.

I’m sorry the athletic department led by former AD Mike Garrett failed to properly investigate anything, hoisting a middle finger at the NCAA when full compliance was requested.

I’m sorry NCAA sanctions crippled the football program to the degree that for 10 years and counting a top-flight head coach wouldn’t come anywhere near Southern California after Carroll’s exodus.

I’m sorry that during 2010-2019 Trojan football became a national punchline, paving the way for Oregon to leapfrog them in national prominence, Stanford and Washington to have more success, and Utah blossom to be their equal, with Cal and Arizona State looming in the background.

I’m sorry “The Lost Decade” produced the two worst recruiting classes in USC history, the entire country pilfering California talent seemingly without resistance, and without noticeable concern until only a few months ago.

But I can’t get behind the rampant celebrating of Reggie Bush’s official return to the fold.

He’s never shown much contrition—not that there’s anything wrong with that. Frankly, I didn’t show any sympathy when the Heisman Trust and Downtown Athletic Club hit him so hard he fumbled away his Heisman. It would matter even less to me how genuinely sorry he was, or conversely, if he called a press conference to announce he’d do it all over again.

On second thought, had he said that, I’d probably find it funny.

What matters to me, and hopefully to most Trojan fans, is the wreckage he left us all to clean up after that handshake with Lloyd Lake.


Vintage railroad photo, author unknown.


It essentially removed USC football from the national spotlight, creating a domino effect that prevented them from being in the national championship discussion indefinitely.

“Once you leave and then you start to really understand what college football is all about,” Bush said recently, about to show how little he knows what college football is all about.

“Then that’s where you go back and say, okay, there was a big, significant injustice that happened here. Not just to me, but to everybody that came through the college system, because as I said before, in no way, shape or form is it okay to tell a young kid when he’s in his prime, ‘You can’t make money off your name, image, and likeness, but this big-time corporation can.’”

The rules today are changing in favor of college athletes profiting off their name, image, and likeness. I imagine one day every athlete will have the opportunity to make money because they play a sport. The problem is back when Bush was in college, it was an NCAA violation to profit from your celebrity. He knowingly broke the law, kicking his teammates to the curb.

And Trojan fans as well.

I wonder if Bush held a players-only meeting before deciding to profit from his name, image, and likeness, asking his teammates what they thought of the idea.

As great a Trojan as Reggie was on the field, I can never forgive the horrible decision he made off it. The sanctions imposed on the football program were tantamount to a Medieval blood-letting, draining the program of energy and value. Yes, they were far too severe. But they would have never happened without Reggie’s egotistical sense of entitlement, that he should rightfully be granted more than the law allowed.

Bush has strategically positioned himself in the roll of pioneer, a champion for the rights of student-athletes to profit from their name just as the corporate world does theirs. Fine. But while he was getting his, he displayed an utter lack of character that will stain the University forever.

The great irony in all this is having to listen to him on his college football show criticize The Cat for his inadequacies. Well Reggie, you shoulder as much blame as anyone for helping to develop the inadequate head coaching situation—so stop bad mouthing him.

That’s my job!

—More from Mik Dietlin—