In this morning’s Times I caught glimpse of a piece titled “The 2014 Heisman Watch” and immediately I realized I was feeling something between disinterest and disdain. And then I wondered, why should I feel that way about such a prestigious award?
Curious by nature I took a look at Heisman.com and learned that the trophy is awarded to “the Outstanding College Football Player in the United States”. I also learned that the school for which the athlete plays is also awarded a Heisman, “recognizing the role a school plays in a player’s success”.
Heisman.com does not elaborate on the qualifications beyond “outstanding”. The site states that eligibility is limited to those in “compliance with the bylaws defining an NCAA student athlete” and that the winner is selected by a large, representative group of sports journalists.
So, the winner is sanctioned and selected by the league and those who cover it in the press. Sounds great. Why the negative feeling?
I think it’s because I can’t feel very good about an award that honors and immortalizes talent but not character. Character isn’t taken into account, except perhaps in the way a player is able to perform well under pressure (no small thing!). The candidates’ off-field behavior isn’t a factor.
Last year the Heismans went to Jameis Winston and to his school, Florida State.
Should one bad apple spoil the bunch? Maybe, considering that in spite of the recurrent behavioral problems of the player, and repeated failure of the school to put appropriate discipline and upright leadership ahead of winning games, Winston and FSU are in the running for another famous statue for 2015.
Lest I complain without offering an improvement, one suggestion is to follow in the skates of the Hobey Baker Award, the award given annually to the top NCAA men’s ice hockey player ….(wait for it) “who best exhibits strength of character both on and off the ice and contributes to the integrity of the team and displays outstanding skills in all phases of the game”.
Whereas the list of Heisman winners is like a roll call of NFL celebrities, most NHL fans would be hard-pressed to identify many winners of the Hobey Baker.
Wellplayed, hockey, for focusing on the right things, or at least including them in the conversation; and for honoring a sportsman, not just a player.