Bush’s return of Heisman is wrong move

Nice try, Heisman Trust. You don’t get off that easy.

Good speech, Reggie Bush. Too bad you couldn’t have given it in person, many months ago, when it might have meant a little more.

This didn’t call for a vacation. Vacating the 2005 Heisman Trophy, won by Bush when he was an electric (but ultimately ineligible) running back at USC, is the easy way out. It’s a slick move to try to wipe the slate clean.

Not long ago Bush said it was “out of my hands” if he got to keep the trophy, which tells us this announcement probably ultimately was, too. The trust likely was going to take it away anyway in order to protect its brand.

But that’s the easy way out. Sometimes, it’s best not to shield one’s eyes. Sometimes, a brand shows its strength by the storms it weathers. By what it owns up to, and takes on.

One thing baseball’s performance-enhancing drugs scandal has taught us is that you can’t just wish these things away. They happened. Yes, those baseballs sailed over the fence. Yes, those sacred records were broken. Their shards are all over us, and there’s no putting them back.

There are some things king’s horses and king’s men can’t erase.

But the other thing baseball showed us is the power of the asterisk. If there’s no escaping what happened, put it in context. It’s a Yes, but …

Yes, they were national champions. But they cheated. And everyone remembers it, and will think of it every time the winners are listed. There will be no escaping it. Was it worth it? They will have to live on, in infamy.

It’s a heck of a thing, to live on in infamy. It’s some kind of punishment, to never allow anyone to forget.

And that’s what we would rather do — forget. We want to get ourselves off the hook when we blame everything on Reggie Bush. We want to move on, to wipe it all away. We want to live in our fantasy world, and I don’t blame us. I do, too. But an asterisk wouldn’t let us.

The asterisk does more than shame its recipient. The asterisk is for all of us.

It forces us to live with what happened. It makes us come to terms with what sports can sometimes be.

And that’s why having Bush give it back is the wrong move here. If there’s no escaping what happened, at least own it. Him. Them. Us.

In 2005, the Heisman Trophy winner broke the No. 1 rule in the book and would have, should have been ineligible.

Would have. Should have. But Reggie Bush won the Heisman. He won it. The outstanding player in college football that season was taking improper benefits. Cash and prizes. That’s college football, sometimes, and now the Heisman Trophy, too. We have to live with that. The Heisman Trust does, too.

Guys who took performance-enhancing drugs hold many of our most beloved baseball records. We have to live with that.

And so do they.

And Reggie Bush should have to live with this, too. No give backs. You own it — you own all of it — for keeps.

They can’t erase this, he can’t escape this, we can’t forget this. It’s not that easy. And it shouldn’t be. But nice try, Heisman Trust.

I love the Heisman Trophy. Love, love, love, love it. But by (air quotes) “protecting its honor” in this way, are we saying every other winner was so pristine? Do we really want to ask that question? Do we really want to set a precedent? Do we really want to open that door?

It’s a nice statement from Bush. And as someone pointed out to me, it should be, he’s had months to get the wording just right. (Hey. LeBron? Hire whomever Reggie just used.)

If he can truly “(turn) a negative situation into a positive one” it would be his biggest cutback since his amazing grace against Fresno State.

Bush did his best to end on an emotional note:

“I will forever appreciate the honor bestowed upon me as a winner of the Heisman. While this decision is heart-breaking, I find solace in knowing that the award was made possible by the support and love of so many. Those are gifts that can never be taken away.”

He’s right. It’s true. He did win it. Nothing can erase it. He’ll always have won that Heisman Trophy.

For good and ill.