BS High (2023)

BS High (2023)

A highly charged account of the infamous and elaborate con that was the Bishop Sycamore scandal



United States of America
95 min

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It’s kind of mind-blowing that the man behind this intricate scam isn’t in jail yet.

What it's about

The documentary gathers the main players in the Bishop Sycamore case, a scandal that saw the creation of a fake high school and football team under the leadership of self-proclaimed coach and con man Roy Johnson.

The take

The particulars of the scandal are enough to shock, enrage, and move anyone, but the directors of BS High also put Johnson in the hot seat and skewer the guy until they wring all ego and delusion out of him. The result is a compelling and terrifying look into a con man’s mind. Johnson alternates between justifying and denying his fraudulent ways and even tries to draw empathy from the audience by explaining his upbringing. But cleverly, the directors intercut his wild speeches with heartfelt testimonies from the real victims of this scam: the young recruits who were promised a better life if they played in Johnson’s team, only to be abused and marked for life. It’s impossible not to feel for the young men, who even up until the documentary’s end, wonder out loud how they could possibly move on from such a traumatic experience. 

What stands out

In the words of one of the young victims, “How can you do that to the kids?” Johnson’s blatant exploitation is the clear standout, but there is also a small but important moment in the film that deserves to be raised. Sports pundit Bomani Jones suggests that despite the swindle angle most people take in viewing this story, it is actually, largely, a race issue. He makes a wise observation that frankly should’ve been shared by more people. “Black players are the commodity in athletics. They are the prize that everybody wants and they are also the least respected people in the whole process.”

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