No, sports fans, I don't get the Heisman at all. Sure, it's nice to be honored by your peers, which was, I suppose, the original intent of these awards in the first place. Before the advent of the voracious, around-the-clock electronic media, I guess the Academy Awards were a cozy, private kind of thing. Very nice. Same for the Heisman. Back in 1935, when a sportswriter thought up the Heisman, this granddaddy of sports awards was a big deal.
College football was about at the top of the American sports heap. Pro football, as we understand it today, simply didn't exist. To earn the first Heisman must have been a singular honor for an athlete of the day. Being an All-American football player, when there was just one All-American team, was a big deal. What a nice thing it must have been for Jay Berwanger, from the University of Chicago (yes, this was a very long time ago), to be feted by the local media, sent on a cool train trip to New York, don a tux and accept, before a closed fraternity of the all-powerful Eastern media, an award for being the best college football player in the country, before starting his life as a real person, having never met Chris Berman nor having heard of a scouting combine.
Now, with a Maxwell and an O'Brien and a Lombardi and an Outland and a Butkus and a Thorpe and a, oh shit, let's not leave out the Walter Payton and Harlon Hill Awards, well, we know I don't care, but why do you and why do Ricky Williams, Cade McNown, or Tim Couch? Why, guys, why do you care? It says the Heisman is for the "best college player," but we all know this isn't true. Only backs of one kind or another are actually considered. Okay, what's wrong with being the best back in the country? Nothing at all, fellas, except rarely does the Heisman even come close to getting the best back. I hate stats and lists, but this time it's necessary. Since 1988, these guys have won the Heisman: Barry Sanders, hey not a bad start. Then we have Andre Ware, a less-than-mediocre pro QB. Ty Detmer, ditto. Desmond Howard, with the exception of a few kick returns, a total bust. Gino Toretta, dear God. Charlie Ward, a less-than-average NBA guard. Rashaan Salaam, another in the lengthy list of awful Bear draft picks. Eddie George, a good pro back. Danny Wuerffel, see Detmer; and finally, Charles Woodson.
Perhaps, Cade, you think the pro scouts are impressed with the Heisman. Maybe it'll mean more money next year. Come on, guys, you gotta be kidding. The pros are a hard lot. They don't cry when Bambi's mom gets greased. No sir, those guys care about times in the 40 and how you throw the
25-yard out. The Heisman's nice, but it won't make you money and it's, if anything, a negative indicator of professional success.
Advertising agencies ought to pay attention to the Heisman. The winners' PR people may be, and often are, more skilled than the winners themselves. A creative -- or at least relentless -- long-term ad campaign is vital to the Heisman winner (Note: Small schools, like centers, aren't welcome). Nothing against, say, Randy Moss, but Randy, aside from some other problems, went to a Central State Place. Central State Places don't have the requisite PR machine required for the four-year barrage of Heisman propaganda.
Here in Austin, hardly an hour passes without a protracted, tedious discussion about how "They must give the Heisman to Ricky." To be honest, I've been sick of it for two years. Blah-blah-blah, goes every columnist, writer, and talk-radio-host in the city, all pimping so damn hard for Ricky. Deep, deep in your own heart, Ricky, do you really care about this,or do you care because everybody says you should?
Again I ask: What's the big deal with the Heisman Trophy? My theory is this: Like the Clinton/ Monica "scandal," the Heisman is a totally media-driven deal. The media invented the Heisman. Only the media votes on it, so who better to shill their own baby than the media themselves? Heisman, Heisman, Heisman is shoved down a fan's throat, day after fall day, year after relentless year. Finally, a fan begins to think this is an important thing. Perhaps we have a bit too much free time on our hands.
Hey, nothing against nice awards. Thanks to many of you, I've won a few. I got 'em hanging on my wall. Do I get paid more? Nope. No award incentives in my deal. Do they make me a better writer? No. So what? They're nice. That's about it. Next summer, when Willams or McCown walks into a pro training camp, the Heisman trophy, over which so much energy has been expended, will mean no more to them than their first plastic prize from Pee-Wee league, though the ceaseless Heisman public relations machine will grind on, uninterrupted, without them.
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