Texas Rangers reliever Matt Bush may be one of the most polarizing figures in sports, let alone in baseball. As he’s set to begin his first full MLB season, HBO’s Real Sports takes an in-depth look at Bush’s story and what makes it difficult to digest for many.
From one view, the former 2004 No. 1 overall pick finally made it to the major leagues after 12 years of self-destructive tendencies that resulted in him being a convicted felon and serving three years in prison. Another view is that someone who nearly killed a man while drunk driving has no place near a MLB pitching mound. That doesn’t even factor in the other opportunities to fulfill his potential that he’s blown because of drinking.
Andrea Kremer covers both sides of the story thoroughly in her report, asking Bush some tough questions about what he’d squandered over the past 12 years and the humiliation that’s come with drunken episodes being captured on film, serving time in prison and working in a Golden Corral as part of a work-release program. The interview is rather unflinching, and it’s up to the viewer to decide whether or not Bush seems genuine in his answers or perhaps a bit too rehearsed in taking some on-screen medicine.
What makes Kremer’s report more compelling than previous features on Bush seen on MLB Network and Fox Sports is that she does more than sit down with Bush and talk to Rangers coach Roy Silver, who found Bush at Golden Corral and had him throw in the parking lot. (The report includes cell phone video of Bush throwing, essentially using a parking bumper as a pitching rubber.)
Kremer also talks to Bush’s father, Daniel, who was once told by his then 18-year-old son who had suddenly become a multi-millionaire that he was no longer needed. Where the relationship between father and son has gone during the past 13 years is one of the more compelling aspects of the Real Sports feature.
Furthermore, Kremer shows the real-world repercussions of Bush’s irresponsible and dangerous behavior. She interviews Anthony Tufano, the motorcyclist whom Bush hit in 2012 and ran over while he was on the ground. Had Tufano not been wearing his helmet, he almost certainly would have been killed. (Bush ran over his head.) Besides it being miraculous that he’s still alive, it’s also jolting to see Tufano, a former marathon runner, enduring the physical difficulties resulting from his accident. He’s in constant pain and battles depression because of his condition, which has apparently deteriorated since he spoke to Gabe Kapler in 2014.
Bush, 31, was a breakout story last season, appearing in 58 games for the Rangers while compiling a 2.48 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 61.2 innings. He could be one of the top setup relievers in MLB this season. But while that comeback narrative is compelling, there’s certainly another side to it, one which HBO made sure to include in its report as a reminder that this is far more than a baseball story.
HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel premieres Tuesday night at 10 p.m. ET.