There is a point in any vacation when the undeniable pull of reality begins to weigh heavier than the call of leisure, and no amount of spa treatments, in-room movies, or overpriced mojitos is going to make the looming spectre of Monday morning any less forboding. The same holds true with blog sabbaticals, such as the one we’ve taken for the last month. As we sat on the hypothetical lanai of our virtual timeshare, enjoying our cyber vacation in the wake of the NCAA Final and the symbolic end to the college basketball season, we knew something would interrupt our reverie and draw us back into the blogging fray, Buzz Bissinger be damned. Maybe it would be the arch ceremony of the NBA draft. Maybe Bobby Knight would take a job coaching the Lady Blue Devils. Maybe Eric Musselman would update his blog/resume to include that summer he spent as the hot dog-eating coach at Camp North Star.
But in what feels like a fait accompli conclusion to the O.J. Mayo Era at USC, the school and player justified our decision to follow them this season by providing the most inevitable story in college basketball short of Kelvin Sampson seeking treatment for cell-phone addiction. To recap, former Mayo confidant Louis Johnson told ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” that Rodney Guillory, mentor/father figure to Mayo, had given money and gifts to the hoops phenom for years, most of which was financed by high-powered agent Bill Duffy’s BDA Sports. The story includes a Ronnie Lott-owned car dealership in Tracy (the Central Valley’s Oakland to Stockton’s San Francisco, no compliment intended for either), and visits to the Red Lobster in Inglewood and a store called Men’s Land in Carson. The Profumo Affair this was not.
Unfortunately there is no entertainment to be derived from this sordid affair, at least until a sex tape of Keena Turner and the tall, ugly Kardashian sister somehow emerges. Besides the sheer inevitability that the coupling of USC and a fatherless, suggestible prep phenom would produce, the story has a cast of characters as utterly irredeemable as that of “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia”. Guillory’s role as head villain is cemented by his having a credit card for a seemingly phony charity for sickle-cell anemia (if not for his expensing a meal at Red Lobster). USC and head coach Tim Floyd, whose office Guillory sat in as Mayo’s letter of intent was being faxed, have just about exhausted their supply of Faustian bargains. Duffy, thus far relatively and strangely absent from criticism, was either directly funding Guillory or had a gross lack of organizational oversight. As for Johnson, despite his self-flagellation and penance on ESPN, it’s pretty clear that had he not been frozen out of Mayo’s inner circle, his whistle never would have been blown. In fact, it could be said that the most innocent character in this mess is O.J. Mayo himself, which is not meant to exonerate him any more than it is to say that Rodrigo was more innocent than Iago.
And so our look at a tumultous year in the life of a basketball phenom comes to an ignominious conclusion. For Mayo, this should matter little. Ironically, just two days ago ESPN’s Chad Ford reported that Mayo’s draft stock was rising as NBA teams, “are reporting that their background checks are coming back as positive for Mayo”. USC will either continue operating as the most well-paying college program in the country or finally collapse under the weight of the Mayo and Reggie Bush scandals. And somewhere in Inglewood, a lonely man will weep into his Buffalo Shrimp as his expense card is denied.