Heisman Trophy voters long ago either forgot or ignored the Stiff Arm’s mission statement.
“The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity …”
If they held those ambiguous words to some sort of standard, perhaps Reggie Bush would still have his award and O.J. Simpson would not. That is not the case.
In 2017, we’re once again being asked to judge an imperfect person as the perfect candidate for this imperfect award: Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield.
You see, what the Sooners quarterback did Saturday afternoon at Kansas was appalling, improper and classless. But were we surprised? Not necessarily by him or by any of it. We live in a society defined by GIFs, Instagrams and Snapchats. Saturday’s running Mayfield saga could have qualified as your average TMZ episode.
After an Oklahoma touchdown, Mayfield turned toward the Kansas sideline, grabbed his crotch, uttered some unprintable epithets and gestured to the Jayhawk bench to come and get him.
They didn’t, thank goodness.
Right now, Mayfield deserves the Heisman based on his incredible on-field resume. He doesn’t deserve our respect. Not after this outburst. Forget winning with class, how about winning without incident?
Part of the reason it’s news is because it was fully caught on camera. That’s the reason anything salacious sells these days. Excellence with integrity? The acts were juvenile to be sure — shocking, for some. But does the Heisman Trust care? Do the voters?
Let’s see them hold Mayfield to a standard they haven’t for other winners. They won’t, of course. OU’s star is so far out in front in the “excellence” department that the “integrity” part hardly matters.
We’re numb, used to it. We overlook it. The award itself wasn’t so much sullied long ago; it had to grow up. The Heisman is a symbol of a bygone era.
That’s uncomfortable at times these days. In case you haven’t noticed, there are no more heroes. These days there are only flawed humans who are lucky enough to avoid the spotlight.
Mayfield, though, sometimes invites that spotlight for the wrong reasons. That does not change the fact that he’s still going to win the Heisman, perhaps unless he’s injured. His receivers have more touchdown grabs than he has crotch grabs. I think.
Six years before Auburn Heisman winner Cam Newton was born LSU Heisman winner Billy Cannon was sentenced for counterfeiting. Not the worst thing in the world but certainly a federal crime that surpasses what Bush did (NCAA violations), causing the Heisman Trust to ask for its statue back. We mention Cam because his ceremony was the first in the modern era where a winner’s background almost overshadowed his victory.
Newton had to answer questions about his dad soliciting money for his services. Then there was that rogue Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who was just that … a rogue. Don’t forget Florida State’s Jameis Winston, who was dealing with serious off-field allegations throughout that entire season but nevertheless won the award.
Perhaps that mission statement is so muddled because it should be. Twenty-four years had passed from his Heisman ceremony when Cannon was sentenced. Newton did nothing wrong himself except lead Auburn to a title … although his dad’s conduct caused the NCAA to change its rules on extra benefits to cover family members.
Mayfield was apparently set off Saturday because Kansas’ captains didn’t shake his hand during the coin flip. (He was also the target of a cheap shot during the game.) Actually, we know Mayfield was set off because, after the Jayhawks left him hanging, he clapped his hands and pointed to the Kansas players as if to say, “I’m gonna get ya.”
That he did. Oklahoma won easily, and Mayfield and his coach were left to answer once again for his conduct.
“I do truly apologize,” Mayfield said after the game. “I think about the kids that are watching. That’s not something that I want to do. It’s not anything you want your kids to watch.”
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