Game Time: USC Sanctions -- A Lesson in Media Logic (or Lack Thereof)

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If you take Brian Cushing's four-game suspension and Reggie Bush's single handed takedown of his alma mater's football program -- two of the biggest football stories of the last two months -- and go to connect them "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon"-style, the easy avenue would seem to be "both of them played for USC in 2005" (even if the record books now show all of Bush's stats and accomplishments as some flavor of "REDACTED").

But isn't the "Six Degrees" game more fulfilling when you come up with another more thought-provoking, circuitous route to arrive at "...starred in Footloose with Kevin Bacon!"? I mean, anyone can connect Tom Cruise and Kevin Bacon (A Few Good Men, 1992), but how about connecting Kevin Bacon to someone a little more obscure...like, say, adult film star Bree Olson (Calvin's Dream with Ron Jeremy who did The Dangerous with Elliott Gould who did The Big Picture with Kevin Bacon!)

Well, thanks to the Associated Press and their sanctimonious jackassery, we have a Bree Olson-level obscure "Six Degrees" connection between Brian Cushing and Reggie Bush, and it goes like this...

I know that it's been about a month now since Cushing revealed that he may have tumors received a four-game suspension from the league for failing a test for Performance Enhancing Drugs, but you all remember the high points, right? You remember how not that shocked we all were, Cushing pal Jay Glazer's jocksniffery waffling, and then The Press Conference ("tumors" revelation sending that event into Proper Noun Status), right? I was as critical as anybody of the way Cushing handled the whole thing; if you go back and read what I wrote at that time, I was not nearly as offended by his alleged violations as I was by his process of apologizing for them.

That said, I was equally offended at the time by the Associated Press deciding to take the unprecedented step of conducting a re-vote of Cushing's AP Defensive Rookie of the Year award -- an award he won in overwhelming fashion with 39 votes (next-closest finisher in the first vote was Buffalo's Jairus Byrd with a paltry SIX votes). I was offended for a couple reasons:

1.) The whole anti-Cushing campaign by Peter King and his ilk had a self righteous "soap box" feel to it of which I'm just not a big fan. I mean, as a radio host and blogger, I guess there's an inherent amount of "soap boxing" in my job, too, but I try not to act like my show/posts are somehow fixing all of the wrongs in the world. The AP made themselves the story in the Cushing thing, which if you are a regular reader King's "Monday Morning Quarterback" column on SI.com, is not all that surprising -- his column is as subtly narcissistic sometimes as it is highly informative.

2.) Cushing failed the PED test early in the season and was still allowed, by NFL rules, to play in all 16 games. In some sense, the fact that he stepped between the lines of sanctioned NFL games is enough for me to consider him "eligible" for the award. This seemed logical to me, especially in light of the fact that the AP is not a medical organization and at the end of the day, any hard-and-fast assumption that they're making that Cushing's performance was actually "enhanced" is just really a bunch of scribes talking out of their collective ass.

Alas, when it comes to my two bullet points above, the AP clearly doesn't care about the first one and they vehemently disagree with the second one (well, at least the 22 voters who switched their vote from Cushing to someone else vehemently disagree.). Ultimately, in terms of who won the award second time around, it didn't matter -- Cushing held onto it (albeit by a much narrower margin), and in the end, the re-vote was really just a chance for some AP voters/writers to beat their chest a little bit. Harmless enough, I suppose. Until...

...(here comes the "Six Degrees" connection)...

...a month or so later (just last week), the USC football program got hit with potentially crippling NCAA sanctions (two-year bowl ban, loss of 30 scholarships over three years) as a result of Reggie Bush's relationship with an aspiring scumbag sports marketer, whereby Bush's family basically got to live in the lap of luxury on someone else's dime (transgressions that USC assistant coach Todd McNair knew about but maintained a vow of silence on -- college football "omerta," I suppose.)

So everything that USC accomplished in the 2004 and 2005 seasons was wiped from the NCAA record books. Wins were vacated, including the BCS national title win in the 2005 Orange Bowl, which effectively stripped USC of the only BCS title of the Pete Carroll Era. It would seem, as vigilant as the AP was against a "villain" like Brian Cushing, that it was a given that they would swoop in and take back USC's AP national title from that season as well (or at least, re-vote on it, right?).

But a funny thing happened...not only was the AP not going to strip USC of its national title, but AP Sports Editor Terry Taylor dropped this little gem on all of us:

"The 2004 poll stands. The poll is intended to measure on-field performance. If teams are allowed to play, they're allowed to be ranked and USC certainly played in 2004."

All well and good, I suppose. I mean, it's almost verbatim what I said regarding Cushing's keeping the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year award. There's only one problem -- the AP is responsible for BOTH the DROY award and the college national title! For sake of argument, let's carve out certain words from Taylor's statement and play Mad Libs, shall we?

"The 2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year Award stands. The award is intended to measure on-field performance. If players are allowed to play, they're allowed to be evaluated and Brian Cushing certainly played in 2009."

I mean, I'm being logical, right? Reggie Bush was ineligible for 2004 and 2005, and that's illegal, right? In some sense, assessing the effect Bush had on USC's winning games that season was far less nebulous than determining what, if any, effect drugs had on Brian Cushing's 2009 performance. Bush averaged ten yards every time he touched the ball, and it's safe to say that USC loses at least one game that season without one of the top three players in the country (For sake of argument, I'll choose the UCLA game as that game, where Bush had touchdown runs of 65 and 81 yards.).

And that was a season where one loss would have certainly meant elimination from any national title consideration -- ask Auburn, left on the outside looking in as an undefeated SEC team (a personal favorite in the "retroactively surreal" category -- can you even imagine an undefeated SEC team today being left out of the BCS title game?).

Put simply, Reggie Bush's effect on USC's national title was much more assessable and tangible than PED's effect on Brian Cushing's 2009 performance. In retrospect, both Bush and steroids are equally undesirable by the governing parties of their respective sport, just not in the AP's eyes I guess.

Honestly, I've always said the retroactive vacating of wins and titles is a stupid, hollow gesture that in a weird way, diminishes everything that occurred on the field in those games, like the games all now have a stain on them that brings everybody who played in those games legally down with the ship. So to be clear, I'm fine with the AP's decision to let USC keep the title.

But I hate stupidity, and I hate a lack of logic and common sense. Just be consistent, AP. It can't be that you get your sanctimony on with Cushing, but with USC and the Bush situation it's "Well, they played the games, so we really can't do anything. Shucks."

As for Bush, he finally spoke to the media today, and as you can imagine, he feels quite persecuted and hasn't really learned much about accountability. (Stop nodding, Kardashian.) He talked about how people don't really know him, and there are a lot of untold truths -- "This thing regarding USC and the NCAA is to me the closest thing to death without dying."

Like tumors, I guess.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on the "Sean & John Show" and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.

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