Did you ever see that episode of Happy Days in which Fonzie has to admit he actually made a mistake but he can't quite say that he was wrong? "I was wr... I was wro..." He tries over and over again, but he just can't say the magic word. I can relate.
Nearly four years ago, in December 2005, I wrote a column about Reggie Bush, who at the time was a brilliant USC tailback and the most exciting ballcarrier in the nation. I wrote that whichever NFL team ended up with the No. 1 pick of the draft the following April would be crazy not to take Bush.
Boy, was I wr....
I didn't just write that Bush was obviously deserving of No. 1, I wrote it in the strongest of terms. I wrote this:
"The Houston Texans, San Francisco 49ers, New York Jets or whichever lucky team ends up with the top pick would be foolish to over-think this. Their draft-day strategy should consist of two words: Draft Bush. Draft him as soon as humanly possible. Do not let commissioner Paul Tagliabue even finish his sentence on draft day.
TAGLIABUE: Now on the clock, the Houston Tex--
TEXANS: Reggie Bush!"
"We would not only draft Bush with our first pick, we'd also draft him again with our second, just to be sure. Bush is that spectacular, that rare, that sure-fire, game-changing a talent."
A few days later, a reader e-mailed and asked me if I would admit to a mistake if Bush didn't turn out to be as good as I expected. I said I would, thinking that was about as likely to happen as the Super Bowl being played on Neptune. But now, here I am.
I was wro...wr... I was completely wr...
Bush went second to the New Orleans Saints in the 2006 draft, behind defensive end Mario Williams, taken by Houston. Williams has developed into a fine pass rusher and no one, at this point, could argue the Texans made the wrong move. Though he has had some spectacular moments, Bush has never been the consistent phenomenon that many observers -- hey, it wasn't just me -- expected him to become.
Although "bust" is too harsh a term, Bush would have to be labeled a disappointment. He has never gained more than 565 yards rushing in any of his three seasons, he has been a good-but-not-great punt returner and he has missed 10 games over the past two seasons due to injury. The stud running back from that draft? At the moment, that title goes to DeAngelo Williams, the No. 27 pick, who gained 1,515 yards and scored 20 touchdowns for the Carolina Panthers last year.
It's looking less and less likely Bush will ever put up similar numbers, especially not if his name keeps turning up on TMZ as often as it does ESPN. At this point in his career, he's more well-known for having dated reality show hottie Kim Kardashian than for anything he's done for the Saints on the field. If Bush doesn't get it in gear, he's in danger of falling into the same category as Kardashian -- celebrities who are famous even though we can't quite remember why.
Meanwhile, I could use a little ketchup to help me eat these words:
"We're having a hard time fathoming what we're hearing, specifically, the idea that the team that winds up with the No. 1 pick shouldn't necessarily use it on Bush. To those who are offering this notion, we would recommend extensive testing for hallucinogenic drugs, and following that, a brain scan."
Maybe the reason I'm having a little trouble completely owning up to my mistake is because Bush still has time to make me look good. He wouldn't be the first great running back to get off to a so-so start in his career. Anther former Trojan great, O.J. Simpson, was a sub-1,000 rusher in each of his first three years, just like Bush, before he broke out with 1,251 yards in his fourth season and a record-setting 2,003 in his fifth. (Although of course, that's surely the only way in which Bush would want to follow in the Juice's footsteps.)
It's a good sign for Bush's career that the romance with Kardashian has apparently ended. He would be wise to lay off the starlets, the Hollywood scene and the endorsements for a while and make sure all of his mental and physical energy is devoted to football. There is still the possibility, although it's growing slimmer, that Bush could eventually live up to his billing as a great back.
More importantly, there's still time for him to make me look like a little less of an idiot. Reggie, do you have any idea how hard it is for a columnist to admit that he's wrong?
How about that? I actually said it.