Why is the Heisman so popular? By the Sports Philosopher

December 9, 2012
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They awarded the Heisman Trophy last weekend.

Did everybody watch it? The ceremony I mean?

Because it’s kind of a big deal. In fact, the Heisman Trophy—awarded every December to the best player in college football—is generally considered by just about everyone in sports the greatest and most prestigious award in all of Sports. The question is….. image0012


This is just an award for a college football player! It isn’t an award for NFL MVP, in other words an award for best adult football player, or an award for the best player in all of major league baseball, or athlete of the year in all sports combined, and yes they do have athlete of the year awards, every year, and which, when you think about it, should be a much bigger deal than an award given annually to a kid who is barely in his twenties, who often can’t drink legally, and who has an adolescent’s bad skin. Right?

In fact, this year’s just-announced winner, Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M, the 1st-ever freshman to win the award, DOES have an adolescent’s bad skin, poor kid. You know why? Cuz he IS a kid! But he also has a 25-pound trophy that virtually every football player, college or pro, would rather have than any other hunk of hardware. Including the Nobel Peace Prize. And I ask again…..


Why do we care so much about an award named after a coach—John Heisman—who’s idea of good sportsmanship is that he once ran up the score on an overmatched opponent to the tune of 222 to nothing? (I’m not kidding. Look it up.)

Remember when O.J Simpson was ordered to pay the families of the two people he was judged to have carved up with a knife $33 million dollars? Remember what aspect of that settlement everybody wanted to know about? They (as in we) all wanted to know if he would have to sell his 1968 Heisman Trophy as part of paying off a portion of that debt! Remember?

It’s far, far easier to name ten Heisman winners than to name even one winner of the Olympic decathlon….and that’s just not right. The Olympics is every four years, surviving the decathlon’s 10 events with the best score, by definition, identifies the best athlete on the Globe, why should this 25-pound trophy for a college kid mean more than that?

Yes, the Heisman matters. But the question, asked yet again, is…..


Anyway, fear not. I think I have the answer. It is an answer that reflects our society as a whole, an answer which gets at the heart of what America is all about. It’s what drives everything in this pre-apocalyptic, 21st-century society of ours. It’s what makes the world go ‘round. It is something that we humanoids, we Americans in particular, have been responding to like Pavlov’s Dog for decades. The popularity of the Heisman comes down to one word.


Yes, packaging! The Heisman isn’t the best award, it’s the best-packaged award! And you gotta hand it to those boys who run it. They really do it up right. I mean they fly the three or four finalists into New York and slap them into suits and usher them down to the Downtown Athletic Club, near Times Square, ESPN does a big remote spot-show from Times Square, hell, the other night I kept looking around for Dick Clark to see if they’d dropped the ball a month early….and Dick’s dead.

And then they parade every living Heisman Trophy winner up onto that stage for us to gawk at (unless they’re in jail like O.J. and a couple others). They really celebrate the history of the damn thing. The other night it was truly a gathering of legends. I gawked. I admit it. I grew up watching these guys. Earl Campbell was there. He couldn’t be made to get up on stage, that’s how banged up his wasted, shattered body is from football, but he was in the audience. Archie Griffin was there. Gary Beban, Doug Flutie, Terry Baker, “Hopalong” Cassidy, John David Crow….great names, legends all. Paul Hornung was there too. The Golden Boy himself. So large these days it looked like somebody had draped a sportcoat over a refrigerator and threw a blond wig on it. But he was there. That’s the point.

And the poor kids. As the winner’s name is about to be called they are all tense and utterly motionless, praying, eyes closed, more nervous than they are in any game they might play in now or in ten years, because they know that the next few seconds might change, will change, their lives forever. It’s a lot like the Oscars; another well-packed meat parade….

Remember, these aren’t the best football players out there. Just the best football players who still get a check from their parents every month.

Anyway, I just wanted to share those thought with you. It’s all about the packaging.
I’m going to put these thoughts into action next week. Next time I’m in the supermarket, I’m gonna look for the best-value item and the best-packaged item, and see what I can learn from comparing the two. Never stop learning, people. Never stop learning.

Or you might wind up having to sell off some hardware to pay off your shortcomings….from jail.

meet….The Sports Philosopher!image0022

Brad Eastland is an author, an historian, a film buff, an undiscovered literary savant, and sort of likes the Heisman Trophy—just not as much as college football fanatics like it . Brad’s other recent columns for La Verne Online can be found in the Sports Section under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’. His columns on very old and very underappreciated movies can be found by clicking Arts & Entertainment, then clicking ’Upon Further Review’. Brad has also written 4 fine novels* and over 20 short-stories.

*To pick up a copy of his recently published novel of life at the racetrack (and of triumph and utter despair) entitled WHERE GODS GAMBLE, a tale of American mythology, simply search for that title in both hardback and paperback on amazon.com, iUniverse.com, or bn.com. And then order it. And then READ it. And then tell everyone about it. And then read it again. And then post your praise on Facebook. And then order a dozen more copies to use as Christmas presents. Okay? Okay??? For all this he thanks you…..

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