I consider myself to be a pretty learned individual and I do a fair amount of reading on a number of subjects. I like to at least know a little bit about a lot of things. When it comes to reading on different topics I enjoy, I typically turn to the more well-known media outlets to gain knowledge and gather information. Of course sports are my favorite topic to read and write about. I remember as a child how big Sports Illustrated was when it came to sports reporting. Over the years SI has lost some of its traction, at least in my mind, when it comes to being a prime outlet to get sports information. With the advent of social media, blogs and the proliferation of ESPN in all its forms, I personally have turned less and less to SI and wouldn’t consider it to be among my primary outlets any more.
With that being said, I caught wind a few days ago of a cover piece Sports Illustrated did on former LSU football star Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu. Being the college football fan that I am, I thought I would take some time to read the piece and get a little more in-depth explanation of what led to his dismissal from the team, what’s going on with him now and what might lie ahead in his future.
The article entitled “Trials of the Honey Badger” by Thayer Evans and Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated, is in a few words…..awful…..terrible…..disjointed…..that’s just a few words that immediately come to mind. I take big time issue with this article and I’m not even an LSU fan.
The main and glaring issue is that they didn’t have the opportunity to interview the article’s centerpiece, Mathieu, himself. They did indicate that they asked for an interview but he declined. I have since heard that the biggest reason in which he declined was due to the authors’ stalking of him (calling repeatedly to the point of harassment and calling from multiple unidentifiable phone numbers) in hopes that he would agree to tell his story to the increasingly pathetic Sports Illustrated. They so desperately wanted to nationally be the first to publish an article of this type on this subject that they allowed this garbage (there’s another word that comes to mind) to be published. Here’s further evidence that he was stalked by the bungling duo. The article makes reference to Mathieu’s attendance at an LSU home football game against Washington. Here’s an excerpt from the article:
“Wading through the sea of purple and gold inside Tiger Stadium is an unlikely spectator in a jungle-themed snap-back hat and a red NOTORIOUS B.I.G. shirt. He’s small but draws a big crowd; fans come over to wish him well and pose for pictures. One female student leans in and says, ‘Hey, you going out tonight?’ In a soft voice he replies, ‘I don’t go out anymore.’”
One would have to be pretty close to Mathieu to discern the conversation they made reference to. I mean let’s just be honest; there’s probably very few times during the course of a game at Tiger Stadium that one could hear someone speak “In a soft voice” unless they were pretty darn close to them. Since the Honey Badger didn’t agree to be interviewed by ‘dumb and dumber’ why in the hell were they so close to him? It seems a bit stalker-like and misguided to me; and that’s just in the second paragraph of the article!
Granted they did get the opportunity to interview Mathieu’s 21 year old sister and his uncle and aunt that took him in and saved him from “one of the poorest parts of New Orleans.” They also had the chance to ‘interview’(if you call a letter from prison an interview) Tyrann’s father, Darrin Hayes. I admire the authors’ hustle in compiling information; however it comes across as a bit creepy to me considering Mathieu chose to distance himself from the article and as of the last few years has distanced himself from his father.
Another issue I have with this article is that it tries to serve to blow the lid off of some possible NCAA rules violations that Mathieu may have committed earlier this year while still a part of the LSU program. This part of the article seems to not really fit with other parts of the article that seem to be something of a feel good story about Mathieu’s brief success despite a difficult situation that includes his father’s life without parole prison sentence, an absent mother, growing up in a tough neighborhood, his marijuana addiction and subsequent short stint in John Lucas’ rehab facility in Houston. The rules violation part appears to just be thrown in, in a manner that would make the reporting duo ‘whistle blowers’ on the LSU program. It’s just weird and in my opinion disjointed reporting.
Further the article seems to be unnecessarily ‘ethnic’ if you will. It refers to Mathieu’s fathers’ former college coach as Marino “the Godfather” Casem. It also includes a reference to Donald “Pork and Beans” Noten as the guy Mathieu’s father (himself frequently referred to as “Cornbread”) killed to land himself in prison. In reference to the murder case, and Hayes’ subsequent conviction, the authors include a quote from a letter credited to “Cornbread” that they say “he sent to a fellow inmate afterward that seemed to confess: ‘The n----- cross me wrong. And that cost him his life.’” They also reminded us that particular passage included a smiley face.
Want more? I got more. The authors also managed to interview one of Tyrann’s childhood friends “Samuel Brooks, a rapper who goes by the name Yung Soop,” who was more than willing to speak out on Mathieu’s marijuana use. They further explain how Tyrann did a number of online videos for nightclubs such as The Palace and Club H2O in Baton Rouge and the New Orleans area for a “crew” he and some friends formed called Era Nation. They tell us of how Mathieu was so tied to the group that he included it in his twitter handle (@TM7_Era). In describing some of the videos they make sure to let us know that in one of the videos “Mathieu wears a shirt that says, HERE’S TO FEELIN’ GOOD ALL THE TIME.” They tell us that “in another video Mathieu is on stage at The Palace in front of a large crowd, using a microphone to talk about the club’s chicken wings and fries.” Really!? REALLY!? There’s nothing else in those videos that you, as a hard hitting reporter, can report on other than how he promoted chicken wings and fries. That’s unnecessarily ‘ethnic’ in my opinion. Quite frankly I’m very surprised that a publication the stature of SI would allow such ‘ethnic’ information, that seemingly has very little to do with the story, into the story.
The authors end the article by speaking with John Lucas, a former NBA star who has become known to work with athletes that have problems and individuals with drug problems. They tell us two days after Mathieu was kicked off the team he was with Lucas in Houston and that “(Lucas had spent a few days with Mathieu earlier in the summer but declines to specify why.)” Apparently Mathieu spent 4 weeks at Lucas’ facilities for inpatient rehab and counseling. They also make reference to the fact that Mathieu’s uncle and aunt, Tyrone and Shiela, “spent two weekends on-site to participate. Lucas declined to comment on the family dynamics, citing confidentiality, but conceded there were ‘big issues.’” That’s tacky, just tacky (there’s another word that comes to mind).
That line seems to just air out the families’ personal business which typically families would prefer to keep amongst themselves. Sure Lucas chose not to comment on it, but doesn’t the fact that the authors included it in the article make you wonder what’s going on inside the family? In my opinion that’s a line that would be better served left out of the article completely.
The piece also lets us know that the reporters were able to talk Mathieu’s imprisoned, father into sharing some personal letters that Tyrann sent him at as young as 8 years old. The very end of the article includes an excerpt from a letter written by an 8 year old Tyrann following his very first visit to see his father in prison: “The only reason I didn’t smile [is] because I just don’t like to smile. But I still love you no matter what. I would love to visit you again.” This excerpt is used to highlight Mathieu’s fathers’ hope that he doesn’t take the wrong path. Really!? REALLY!? To me that quote absolutely in no way speaks to his choosing the right path. Unbelievable (there’s another word that comes to mind)!
After reading this article I think about how I stopped watching the Fox News Channel back in 2005 because they wouldn’t stop calling the people leaving New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina ‘refugees.’ Really!? REALLY!? Take a minute to look up the word refugee and tell me if that describes those people that had to leave New Orleans. I say all of that to say this; this poorly written and thought out article has me wondering if I should ever pick up a Sports Illustrated magazine or surf their website ever again.