In August 2021, the high school football powerhouse IMG Academy played a lesser-known team, Bishop Sycamore, in a game broadcast on ESPN. IMG won. The score was 58-0. That lopsided match precipitated a shocking revelation: Bishop Sycamore wasn’t a true high school. The tale is one of greed and grift. But “BS High,” a documentary about the saga, is too taken by the audacity of Roy Johnson, the founder of Bishop Sycamore, to critique his actions.
The directors Martin Desmond Roe and Travon Free have gained unfettered access to Johnson to retrace the coach’s founding of a football academy ostensibly intended to help Black athletes succeed. At first, Johnson is depicted as an amusing, comically inept figure dodging unpaid hotel bills, buying groceries at bottom-market prices and concocting cons so egregious there are no laws against them. It’s all done with the goal of turning Bishop Sycamore into a recruitment hub for top-tier colleges.
The questions Roe and Free volley at Johnson aren’t used to investigate his misdeeds, but rather played, through sharp cuts, as setups for punch lines. That method wears thin as these young players, in their own interviews, share the broken promises, shattered dreams and physical perils they endured. Ultimately, the film shifts full blame to what Johnson took advantage of: a larger system that exploits young athletes for big money and television ratings. But by repurposing the story in a way that seems geared for pure entertainment, “BS High” can come off as similarly exploitative.
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes. Watch on HBO platforms.
POST AUTHOR: Robert Daniels