Something missing in Heisman race
AP Sports Columnist
Some of our top elected officials took time out Wednesday from the weighty issues of the day to push a bill that would ban promotion of the BCS title game as the national championship of college football.
There’s no truth to the rumor that their next vote will be to declare that the winner of the Heisman trophy isn’t necessarily the best college player in the country.
The results of the last 10 years may support that. The list is littered with players who flopped the moment they left school.
College success has not always translated into NFL millions, as recent winners such as Eric Crouch, Jason White and Troy Smith can certainly attest. The jury is still out on Tim Tebow, too, though Florida’s governor seems ready to raid the state’s treasury if that is what it takes to get Jacksonville to pick him in the draft.
The prospects of this year’s candidates seem decent enough. There’s going to be some serious talent assembled Saturday at the Nokia Theater in Times Square, including a long shot from Nebraska trying to become the first defensive player to win the Heisman in a dozen years.
The name Ndamukong Suh does have a nice ring to it, and voters do tend to remember the last thing they saw, which was Suh fronting a Nebraska defense that dominated Texas in the Big 12 championship game. Although Suh almost certainly will be rewarded when his name is called as the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, Heisman voters tend to gravitate toward guys who actually touch the ball.
Web site operators who spend way more time than they should figuring this stuff out have running backs Mark Ingram of Alabama and Stanford’s Toby Gerhart in a dead heat, with Suh and Colt McCoy just behind. Tebow will also be in New York, if only because ESPN can’t possibly have a college football show without the sport’s most popular player.
Like last year, it figures to be competitive. Should make a fine TV show, which is all that seems to matter anymore.
Somehow, though, it all seems way overblown. The Heisman speculation aired incessantly in seemingly every college game this season has dulled the aura of the once mystical straight-armed statue.
A conversation that once developed about the time the leaves started turning now begins in the heat of midsummer when the upcoming season’s talent is first evaluated. There’s no need for schools to run late season campaigns for their candidates because the ones that have been deemed worthy have long since been anointed as the front-runners.
Players no longer just have to win games for their schools, as McCoy did all season long for Texas. They must have spectacular games on national television when it matters most or risk being shut out of the debate.
One of the great things about the Heisman is it’s decided in a relatively democratic process by a wide pool of voters from all parts of the country. Over the years that has helped level the playing field, especially for West Coast candidates who might otherwise have been overlooked.
But the 900-plus voters don’t see all the games. Some of them wouldn’t be qualified to pick the best player in the country even if they did.
They end up relying on what the talking heads say on TV, and the conversation gets steered in predictable ways depending on what the talking heads have just seen.
So McCoy is probably out, and Tebow is so yesterday. Suh, meanwhile, is the boutique pick for voters who like to look smarter than they really are.
It seems scripted, because in a lot of ways it is. The babblers have decreed that this should be a pick between a running back with better numbers and a running back on a better team.
The voters are merely a prop now, used to make official what has already become preordained. Take a poll of the entire country and you would probably end up with similar numbers because everyone has heard the same talk.
Saturday night’s show should be a good one. There will be lots of good action clips, lots of shots of guys looking nervously at each other.
Finally, someone will stand and hoist the Heisman over his head for the 75th time.
It’s a great trophy, and a fine tradition.
Too bad the mystique that once surrounded it is gone.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org