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Whatever respect I had left for the Heisman trophy I lost Saturday night. The Big XII championship on Dec. 6 appeared to be the end of Oklahoma quarterback Jason White’s miracle quest to recover from two torn ACLs and come back to win the Heisman. White had his worst performance on the biggest stage, throwing two interceptions while failing to record a touchdown in a 35-7 loss to Kansas State.
Luckily for White, 50 percent of Heisman voters had already turned in their ballots before he even stepped inside Arrowhead Stadium.
Not surprisingly, those voters who voted before Oklahoma’s meltdown in the Big XII title game gave the edge to White. Those who voted after the entire season was over gave the edge to Pittsburgh wideout Larry Fitzgerald.
Despite Fitzgerald’s impressive numbers—87 receptions, 132.9 receiving yards per game and 22 touchdowns—he already found himself on an unlevel playing field due to the ridiculous preconceptions that go along with the award.
He had heard about the age biases the he would face as a sophomore going up against three seniors—Michigan running back Chris Perry, Mississippi quarterback Eli Manning and White. He had heard that a pure wide-receiver—one that doesn’t return punts or kickoffs as well—is at a severe disadvantage in the Heisman balloting due to his reliance on the performance of his squad’s quarterback. He had heard that being on a four-loss team can kill any player’s chances regardless of his ability. But he had never expected that any voter who valued the history of the award would do it such a disservice by voting before all the games were played.
It’s absurd that those votes cast before the season was complete were even accepted. The ballots should have been mailed back with a note reading, “The season’s not over, jackass.”
Seriously, those “early bird” voters should have their ballots stripped away from them next year. Maybe the stodgy members of the Downtown Athletic Club are too busy chuckling over their fat cigars to listen to my advice and reclaim the honor that used to be associated with their award. But that’s good. They need to refine their sense of humor, because pretty soon they’ll be laughing with the rest of the nation about what a joke their little trophy has become.
After the ceremony, Fitzgerald was asked specifically about the timing of the votes.
“I really don’t even think about that,” Fitzgerald said. “Voters vote for who they want to vote for.”
Larry, you’re a better man than I. If I had been in his shoes, I would have grabbed the nearest reporter and launched into a diatribe not much different from that which I’ve already engaged in above—except that my adjectives would have been a bit more “colorful.”
But that’s always been Fitzgerald’s style. His jaw-dropping catches are followed by the commendable routine of flipping the ball to the nearest official and heading back to the huddle. No silly dances, no childish taunting, he just lines back up and gets ready to amaze once again. His complete lack of selfishness and devotion to the team led him to convince the Pittsburgh athletic department not to engage in a full-scale media blitz, which has become commonplace among schools with Heisman finalists. He would let his play on the field sway the minds of the voters not his politicking off of it. And in the end, his ability to put up gaudy numbers while being double or triple-teamed and his knack for making the impossible catch seem routine made voters forget that he was a sophomore wideout on an 8-4 team.
But he couldn’t overcome the fact half the voters set out to prove how little they cared about the awesome responsibility of voting for the nation’s most outstanding player by casting their ballots well before the season had drawn to its conclusion. I know Larry won’t tell those voters how ashamed they should be of themselves, but I have absolutely no qualms about doing so. Thank you, dearest voters, for taking this opportunity to belittle the value of the Heisman Trophy once again and thank you for your continuing effort to reduce a new generation’s respect for the award and its winners.
—Staff writer Michael R. James can be reached at email@example.com.
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