So first you have to do a story on Tyrann Mathieu because, well, Tyrann freakin' Mathieu. If you don't know his life story, it's pretty simple. Child is born. Child's father and mother split due to an insane rage problem, a rage problem that culminates in child's father getting a murder conviction he himself predicted in letters sent from prison. Child is raised by caring relatives, goes to LSU to play football, and then becomes the Honey Badger.
It's a great story, one that came out in September.
Then, in the midst of the story, you discover the story isn't yielding everything you want it to. The family's no longer cooperating. You're stuck with something like a rehash of previous work with little new to show for your work. The deadline looms, you redouble your efforts, and you have a few new details from his past and a storyline about players getting VIP access at a club with his friends, who sometimes put his face on promo flyers. (Again: something you can probably pull off of a wall in any town with a major football program.)
This happens all over the place, of course, often without players' knowledge, but your editor wants the story, and there's that deadline for THE FREAKING COVER STORY, and um...you go with it. You solder together a kind of warmed-over Frankenpiece, leading with the arresting details of his past, and then divulging the bits you scraped together into a prayer of a pitch at the last minute under deadline. That's what it feels like, at least, after three reads and a lot of headscratching.
By the way, you have one official on the record about it:
A veteran compliance officer with no direct knowledge of Mathieu's case...
It would be really fun to believe that this was trolltastic muckraking, but like all conspiracies it assumes a level of competence and coordination people are rarely capable of for sustained periods of time. What probably happened here was work done under the pressure of time, deadline, not having any other ideas, or whatever the hell they thought was the rush. In a perfect world, this story would have been torpedoed the minute the family didn't cooperate and nothing new or substantial came of it. It wasn't, and now here we are.
This isn't malice. It is something slightly different: incompetence. What the hurry was, we'll never know. We just wish they'd waited it out, because Mathieu's story is a great one, and one that someone else will get to tell now that the Mathieu family has shut the door for a very long time to SI and anyone else with questions and a recording device.
P.S. If you believe a Louisiana club manager's testimony on anything, please email us about exciting financial opportunities in Nigeria.