What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
“I got screwed hard up on Rocky Top…” The crybabies at the University of Tennessee are at it again; they believe Heisman voting has historically been unfair to them. They believe this so fervently that the Volunteer athletic department is peppering the south with billboards and engaging in a public relations campaign promoting safety Eric Berry for this season’s award, complete with mass mailings to reporters and flooding the web with videos. As of this writing, there is no confirmation to the rumor that Vol fans are planning to camp in front of the homes of Heisman voters, brandishing hound dogs and shotguns.
It is easy to see why Tennessee supporters have a bad case of “red-headed step-child syndrome.” The Volunteers have spent the last decade in the SEC getting a constant view of the tail-lights of Florida, Georgia, and LSU. Conversely, it is not so easy to get Vol fans to understand why – the recently departed former coach Phil Fulmer wasn’t able to win anything without a quarterback named Manning.
Naturally, it is “Gatorbait” Manning who is really the catalyst (Note to Vol fans: catalyst \ka-tə-ləst\ – something that provokes or speeds significant change or action, sort of like the yeast in your backwoods moonshine mill) for much of this Heisman angst. All in Vol Nation remember 1997 when “Gatorbait” finished behind Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson for the award given by the Downtown Athletic Club.
Much like all stereotypes evolve from at least a kernel of truth, cries of injustice need at least one quasi-reasonable example to have any credibility. In this case, Vol fans are actually correct; Gatorbait got the shaft. Overall, Gatorbait Manning was a far superior player to Woodson. Manning was on his way to leading the Volunteers to their last national championship, setting 39 Tennessee or SEC records along the way. Meanwhile, Woodson’s offensive contribution was largely about a few big plays, especially a punt-return touchdown against Ohio State that blinded the voters to Woodson’s mediocre 8.4-yard average per return.
The trick is that once they have you sympathetic to Gatorbait’s plight in ’97, they trot out other “examples of injustice,” namely Johnny Majors in 1956. To this day, you can still find Vol fans incensed over the fact that Majors was slighted in favor of Notre Dame golden boy Paul Hornung. Vol fans can’t understand how the award could be given to the quarterback of a team that went 2-8.
This is where the credibility of the Vols’ claim starts to disappear faster than a box of Krispy Kreme’s around former coach Phil Fulmer. The beauty of the campaign launched by Vol Nation for Eric Berry is that it also illustrates all the characteristics that make Vols’ fans so incredibly detestable.
1) Hypocrisy – When it comes to the aforementioned Majors vs. Hornung, the Vol faithful love to bitch about Notre Dame’s record in 1956 (2-8). The cry arises in Knoxville over how can you give the Heisman to a guy on a losing team, and to be honest, Hornung remains the only player to do so. But this year the Vols have a solid shot to be 6-6 or worse. Besides, they are failing to realize the award is for the best player, not the best team.
2) Irony – This is another “failure to understand” situation. Does anybody else see Vol Nation is pushing a defensive player when it was a defensive player that put the screws to Gatorbait?
3) Stupidity – Getting into a debate over Majors vs. Hornung misses the fact that neither should have won. Jim Brown, arguably one of the greatest players in the history of the sport finishing fifth was the far greater injustice. At that time, the Heisman had never been awarded to a black player, and it wasn’t going to be in 1956. That season, Brown not only ranked third nationally in rushing yards per game, but also he was also second on his team in interceptions, with three.
4) Oblivious – In a year with an unusually large contingent of contenders (Florida’s Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy of Texas, and Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford just for openers), this is really not the time to be putting money on the longshot. But the Vol athletic department has already put up 10 billboards at a significant cost and is looking to cough up more dough on a supporting public relations campaign.
5) Ego-centric – It actually might save us all a lot of time if the name were changed to Tenne-mee. Vol fans are are always whining about how the Heisman voting is unfair to them and only them, despite the fact they don’t even have the best “we got screwed” claim. Alabama, which owns the second-most consensus national championships among major schools behind Notre Dame, has never had a Heisman trophy winner, even though Joe Namath played “ugly girl home alone on a Saturday night” to the Heisman committee’s “drunken frat boy.” Of course, Bammers take this as a sort of ironic pride, hanging their hounds-tooth hat on a Bear Bryant quote.
At Alabama our players don’t win Heisman Trophies. Our teams win national championships.
Understanding quantum physics is easier than figuring out how Namath failed to finish in the top ten in voting leading Alabama to the 1964 national title while posting a completion percentage of 64%.
Unlike those Bammers, there are many who believe they don’t get a fair shake. The crybabies in Vol Nation need to take a cue from these people and stop whining about it. Defensive players as a group, offensive players who aren’t running backs or quarterbacks (and more recently, those who aren’t quaterbacks – eight of the last nine winners have been passers), underclassmen, west coast players not from Southern Cal, small school players, and players from schools without the “football tradition” have all had difficulty winning at one time or another. And they all have a better beef than Tenne-mee.
Stiff-Armed by Heisman
Defensive Players As a Group
Hugh Green – <thumbing through dictionary, sees picture of Green next to the definition of “Proof that a defense-only player can’t win the Heisman”> A defensive end at the University of Pittsburgh, Green shredded opposing lineman and backfields on the way to winning the Walter Camp, Maxwell, United Press International (UPI) and Sporting News player of the year awards but still lost out on the Heisman, which went to South Carolina running back George Rogers.
Alex Karras – Karras was the most dominant lineman in the nation. Before Karras’ arrival at Iowa, no defensive tackle could take over a ballgame quite like Karras did. He won the 1957 Outland Trophy and was a consensus first team All-American. But that was only good enough to place second in the Heisman voting, the highest finish ever for a tackle. All in all, it was probably for the best, since I don’t think winner John David Crow could have pulled off playing “Mongo.”
Small School Players
Ed Marinaro – Had Marinaro gone to a big-conference school, the 1971 Heisman voting wouldn’t even have been close. Marinaro still holds the he set for career rushing yards per game, at 174.6. But playing for Cornell apparently only rates the Maxwell and UPI awards for player of the year, the Heisman went to Auburn quarterback Pat Sullivan. But in consolation, like Karras, Marinaro went on to a career in Hollywood.
Steve McNair – The fact that McNair couldn’t win seals the fate of small school players. All the pieces were there; a player in McNair who could take over a ball game on his own and a lackluster field of candidates from the big schools. McNair set NCAA total-offense records for season and career yards per game in 1994, but still finished behind Colorado’s Rashaan Salaam and Penn State’s Ki-Jana Carter.
Offensive Players Who Aren’t Running Backs or Quarterbacks
Larry Fitzgerald – Since 1950, just two receivers have won: Notre Dame’s Tim Brown in 1987 and Michigan’s Desmond Howard in 1991. Fitzgerald set an NCAA record with a touchdown catch in 18 straight games and won the Walter Camp award. But Oklahoma quarterback Jason White won the Heisman largely because he was the quarterback with the sexiest stats.
Tom Brown – A consensus first-team All-American for the Minnesota Golden Gophers national championship team of 1960, Brown took a page from the book authored by Alex Karras. Brown won the 1960 Outland Trophy and his second-place finish is still the highest ever for a guard.
But in recent years, even running backs are being shut out. The most ominous sign of this came in 1985 when Iowa quarterback Chuck Long damn near beat out All-American, All-World, All-Universe, All-Fuck-You-I’m-The-Greatest-Ever Bo Jackson.
Adrian Peterson – While Matt Leinart was a fairly legitimate pick for the award in 2004, AP had a monster season, leading the nation in total carries and finished up with 1,975 yards rushing, in what may be the greatest season ever by a freshman.
Darren McFadden – I didn’t really know what to do with one. Sure, it was a screw job, but why? 2006 Heisman winner Troy Smith had a decent enough season to where an argument could be made that his win was not just for the fact he played for the Ohio State Penitentiary University or just because he was a quarterback. So, the reason the award wasn’t given to the player who was clearly the best in the country that season had to have been that the voters just wanted to give it to a senior.
West Coast Players Not From Southern Cal
Marshall Faulk – Faulk was actually screwed three ways; he wasn’t a quarterback, he wasn’t a Trojan, and San Diego State is in the backwater of the college football world. 1992 may be the year of the worst Heisman selection ever, when you consider that Faulk, woho led the nation in rushing despite missing two games, was just the best of an incredible crop of players better then Torretta.
Troy Aikman – Don’t misunderstand me here, in no way am I saying that Barry Sanders should not have won in 1988. He was clearly the best player in the nation that year. But the fact that UCLA’s Aikman finished third behind Trojan suck-ass Rodney Peete is just an atrocity.
Players From Schools Without the “Football Tradition”
Anthony Thompson – Dominating the nation and the Big Eleven Ten as an All-American running back at Indiana just wasn’t enough to get the award from the prototypical stat-whore quarterback; Houston’s Andre Ware. Had Thompson gone just up the road to South Bend, his 65 career touchdowns and 5,299 career rushing yards would certainly have garnered a Heisman at some point.
Mike Phipps – Phipps is arguably the best example of a school suffering from voter bias. In short, Phipps likely lost the 1969 award by a mere 144 votes to Oklahoma’s Steve Owens largely because OU has a steeped football tradition, whereas Purdue doesn’t. But Phipps isn’t the Boilers’ only example. 2000 saw Drew Brees finish behind two inferior quarterbacks on superior teams; Josh Heupel at Oklahoma and winner Chris Weinke at Florida State.
Purdue also had the misfortune of producing its greatest players when there were guys just a shade better somewhere else.
1966 – Bob Griese opens the door on the golden age of Boiler football, only to have Steve Spurrier do the same with Florida.
1967-68 – Running back Leroy Keyes powers Purdue to its brief period of dominance in the Big Eleven Ten (Quick – name the last time you saw this headline: “Ohio State Upsets Purdue”), but does so toiling in the shadow of O.J. Simpson.
1980 – Quaterback Mark Herrmann tries to rekindle Purdue’s heyday, but picks a year that shows us both Hugh Green and Herschel Walker.
I really hope you Tenne-mee fans are having somebody read this to you. It is high time you quit crying in whatever cheap beer you are chugging and realize that just because you got screwed once doesn’t mean you have been screwed every time.
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