Directed by: Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe
Premise: A documentary about the Bishop Sycamore high school football team which became a national sports scandal after their televised loss to IMG Academy in 2021.
What Works: BS High presents a fascinating story even for viewers who might not ordinarily care about football or athletics. Bishop Sycamore presented itself as a high school for at-risk but athletically talented students and would prepare them for opportunities in the NCAA and professional sports. As revealed in BS High, this institution could hardly be described as a school nor was it much of a sports academy. Bishop Sycamore was really a scam led by unscrupulous coaches who found a way to game the system. It’s an extraordinary story. The documentary is well produced with commentary from reporters who give legal and historical context and the former players who provide the human angle. BS High is assisted in no small way by the interview with Bishop Sycamore coach Roy Johnson who is so unapologetic and so nakedly corrupt that his testimony continually astounds. What is especially impressive about BS High is the way it reveals the human story. Bishop Sycamore’s 2021 blowout loss to IMG Academy was broadcast on ESPN and became a national story with the Bishop Sycamore team becoming a punchline in sports reporting and on social media. The film starts there, giving air to the ridiculousness, and then goes back to recount how the team got to that game. By the time the documentary catches up to the Bishop Sycamore-IMG Academy game the whole tone has shifted and so has our understanding of what that event represented. Bishop Sycamore starts as a joke but it becomes a tragedy. The filmmakers document what happened to these young men who were taken in by a con artist and how hopes were dashed and future opportunities were denied because of their affiliation with Bishop Sycamore.
What Doesn’t: One of the most powerful aspects of BS High is the way it suggests that the corruption at the root of Bishop Sycamore is not unique and is in fact indicative of the way youth sports are run even at supposedly respectable institutions. The documentary never quite substantiates that suggestion. Systemic corruption is clearly implied in the comments by some of the interviewees but BS High stops just short that realizing that argument. It’s a missed opportunity. Had the filmmakers gone all the way this documentary could have been devastating and struck at the core of the inane value invested in school athletics.
Disc extras: Available on Max.
Bottom Line: BS High is a fascinating documentary with an engrossing story. It stops short of indicting the whole system but the story told here is heartbreaking and shocking.
Episode: #966 (September 24, 2023)