In a recent episode of ABC’s Modern Family, Ed O’Neill’s character Jay Pritchett finds himself drawn to the town dog show. A man’s man, the family patriarch is peculiarly fascinated about entering his doted upon French bulldog into an arena where his prize could be recognized by all as the best dog on the block. Per usual with the show, hilarity ensues.
The media-driven political beauty pageant that is the Heisman Trophy “Race”(presented by Nissan, naturally) has become the local dog show of football. Our favorite players from our favorite teams preen and primp, exerting effort to gain the hearts of America every Saturday like contestants on a Ryan Seacrest show piece. Similarly to show biz, fans can’t get enough of the meteoric rise and violent crashes of the participants. Don’t believe me? Ask the TMZ sports department about their web traffic lately.
The Searing Spotlight
The most recent four Heisman winners have been quarterbacks, each selected in the first round of the NFL draft with the exception of Jamies Winston, who is a presumed first round talent with seventh round character. During or after their Heisman campaigns, each of these young men has found himself at the center of intense national scrutiny.
Enter one young Marcus Mariota into this marketed melodrama for the ages. Boring in interviews while humble to a fault, reserved in public and deeply spiritual, Mariota isn’t deserving of the Heisman publicity dependent on drawing eyeballs to gossip rags and putting butts in sparkling new Nissans. No, Mariota doesn’t deserve this grand spotlight because although his play on the gridiron might be dazzling, he lacks the sparkle factor our world thirsts to consume. Johnny Football is Jolt Cola to Marcus’ Dasani Pure Water, and football fans crave a sugar rush.
The Heisman Jinx
Athletes and fans alike, we all are a bit superstitious. Madden and Sports Illustrated covers can take a back seat to a new sheriff in town for predicting career faceplants. Statistically speaking, if you are a supporter of a particular player you should be rooting for them to be a finalist but not a Heisman winner. From 2002 through 2012, nine of eleven trophy winners have been quarterbacks. Of those nine, only one, Cam Newton, started last week in the NFL. Four others are injured or riding benches, but the other four are astonishingly out of football already with talent-related challenges. Tim Tebow, Jason White, Troy Smith, and Matt Leinart have all found themselves outside NFL huddles within just a few years. Who were finalists unable to attain college’s “most coveted award” during that period? Payton and Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, and Russell Wilson share seven super bowl championships between them and never hoisted the Heisman. Other top NFL signal callers who missed the award include Andrew Luck, Philip Rivers, Andy Dalton, and Donovan McNabb.
Going back even further on the Heisman winners list, we discover an NFL career graveyard where college greats flamed out too early and struck their sports ceilings. Danny Wuerffel, Rashaan Salaam, Chris Weinke, Eric Crouch, and Ron Dayne never saw significant seasons in the pros. Charlie Ward chose the NBA in 1993. Marcus Mariota continues to acquire praise from NFL scouts, and we the fans should hope he never loads another jinx on his back. He already has enough bad juju for one man with three Sports Illustrated covers before the age of 21.
There Might Not Be An “I” In Team, But There Is One In Heisman
The final myth to expose about the Heisman is that typically the winner comes from the best team in college football that year. Not only is that incorrect, but the Heisman winner’s team has barely a .500 record in his team’s subsequent bowl game over the past twelve years with a 6-5 record (Reggie Bush’s vacated Heisman not withstanding). It is true that there are five national championships during that stretch, but that is far from evidence that Heisman trophies equate to fully successful seasons of competition.
Mariota has consistently expressed his value in team accomplishments before individual awards as his measure of success in 2014. If he has an eye for recent history, his sentiments are likely authentic. Marcus The Humble doesn’t deserve the Heisman; he deserves a long, winning career as a collegiate and professional athlete. Let’s hope he ducks the entire dog show in New York this December like a blitzing linebacker, only to sprint headlong into a championship.
Top Photo Credit: Kevin Cline