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December 17, 2009
It’s still college football season, of course, with Nebraska Cornhusker fans still justifiably unhappy over the fact that the nation’s best defensive player, Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh, finished only fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Then there is continuing interest in the pro football draft and where Suh will finish in that more objective evaluation of collegiate football talent.
So my column today with start and end with an emphasis on football. (After all, I attended my first Cornhusker game in 1933. I’ll save you the arithmetic: That was 76 years ago.)
* * *
In its 75th year, the mega-hyped Heisman Trophy has once again been promoted and awarded under false pretenses.
The Heisman Trophy website, maintained by the sponsoring Downtown Athletic Club in New York City, says the trophy is awarded annually to “the most outstanding player in collegiate football.” This is simply not true. The sports writers and broadcasters, with the acquiescence of the Heisman sponsors, have turned the annual competition into a recognition of an offensive player who gets the most votes from some 900 print and broadcast voters.
In 75 years, only one so-called defensive player—certainly not an in-the-trenches defensive lineman or linebacker who can dominate a game like Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh did so consistently this season—but a cornerback named Charles Woodson of Michigan, better known for his kick returns than overall defensive dominance.
Another flaw in the Heisman hype is the regional prejudices which influence if not actually dominate the voting. Votes are tabulated by six regions. So, predictably, overall second place finisher running back Toby Gerhart of Stanford had a wide Far West Region margin of votes for best-in-the-nation offensive player. In four other regions, including the South and East, the Heisman winner, running back Mark Ingram of Alabama, got the most votes.
In the so-called Southwest Region (presumably so named because it includes the Big 12 whose membership is dominated by Texas and Oklahoma schools) Suh got the most votes, 254 to 216 for Texas quarterback Colt McCoy and 214 for Ingram.
Why don’t the Heisman promoters do the obvious honest thing and simply say that the award is designed to recognize the best offensive collegiate football player in the United States? Let the defensive players be recognized, as they currently are, by a variety of other awards—a remarkable four of which, including the prestigious Lombardi and Outland trophies, were won by Suh, certainly the outstanding defensive player this season and, arguably, the most dominant player on either side of the ball.
(I’ll finish the column today a few items farther down with some interesting but less significant football season sidelights.)
* * *
With his popularity poll ratings dipping to the lowest point since Harry Truman was president more than half a century ago, Barrack Obama turns to the frequent refuge of political demagogues; i.e., publicly attack bankers and especially “fat cat” Wall Street bankers.
Obama is telling anyone who will listen—including national television audiences—that bankers should be making low-interest loans more available, especially to persons who are seeking low-interest mortgage loans to finance house purchases.
This advice despite the fact that it was unrealistically low mortgage interest rates—encouraged by President Clinton and by Democratic legislators like Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut—which started the cycle of mortgage foreclosures which ignited the economic downturn which led to the recession which the nation has struggled with for well more than a year.
Some bankers were, of course, irresponsibly involved in the cheap-interest mortgage fiasco, which was based on the liberal political philosophy that every American family is entitled to realize “the American dream” of owning their own home. And some Wall Street banks should properly bear part of the blame.
But the blame primarily belongs on Democratic politicians who promoted the disastrous cheap-mortgage-interest policies.
* * *
Predictably, opponents of expanded embryonic stem cell research at the University of Nebraska are insisting that the university regents have made a major mistake in interpreting the intent of a bill passed by the Legislature in 2006.
And also predictably, in indicating that they continue to be opposed to expanded embryonic stem cell research, despite the fact that the federal government has broadened its research funding policies to include expanded research, the opponents continue to ignore this basic question:
What better use can be made of the thousands of excess embryonic stem cells in cold storage in fertility clinics all over the country? What is to be done with them?
Until the anti-expanded research advocates come up with a sensible, generally accepted answers to those questions, their anti-research efforts lack credibility, as I see it.
* * *
One wonders if receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize—totally undeserved, in the opinion of a very great many observers—may turn out to be a political liability to President Obama.
Certainly not lost on the world’s observers—and the American people—is the irony of Obama accepting a peace award at the same time he has committed the United States to send 30,000 more troops into a war in Afghanistan.
The irony is underscored by the fact that within days of Obama announcing a July 11, 2011 date as the start of withdrawal of the troops, officials in his administration began stressing that American military forces could remain in Afghanistan for a long time.
As The New York Times put it, the officials in the Obama administration are “seeking to blunt criticism that President Obama had sent the wrong signal in his war-strategy speech last week by projecting July, 2011 as a start for withdrawal.”
* * *
Election of Houston’s new mayor, Annie Parker, has lesbian and homosexual activists all over the country were understandably overjoyed by the victory of Parker, an acknowledged lesbian.
But one can question, it seems to me, the extent of the significance which Parker herself attached to her victory in describing it in these words:
“…It is about changing the lives of all Houstonians for the better.”
One wonders whether the lives of all Houstonians will be changed for the better because the city has elected its first lesbian mayor.
* * *
Some final Heisman Trophy/Husker football thoughts for today:
Typical of most of the national news media focus on the Heisman Trophy as only a recognition of offensive performance was a recent Sports Illustrated story telling of Texas quarterback Colt McCoy’s performance in the Big 12 championship game against Nebraska. While the story gave Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh proper credit for a performance which included 12 tackles, including 4-1/2 sacks of McCoy, the emphasis of the article was on the fact that, as the headline put it, “Colt McCoy may have thrown away the Heisman.”
No mention of the possibility that Suh’s dominating performance in a nationally-spotlighted conference championship game might have—indeed, should have—enhanced his chances of finishing ahead of McCoy in the Heisman voting.
Instead, Suh finished fourth and McCoy finished third.
Interestingly and, I thought, rather oddly, one Nebraska sports commentator seemed to make a rather philosophical appraisal of Suh finishing a surprisingly low fourth in the Heisman balloting. This commentator seemed quite satisfied that Suh had won Heisman attention and won so many other trophies.
This was an interesting contrast to the comments of a Denver Post columnist, who, while predicting that Suh would not win the Heisman, said Suh “deserves to break the Heisman barrier…he was, in fact, college football’s most outstanding player this year. And if he doesn’t walk away with that statue, it will be because too many voters labor under a narrow-minded prejudice that just won’t die.”
Final football thought for the day:
I have commented before on the impropriety of so many athletes invoking divine help—or thanking divine intervention—for success in a football or basketball or baseball game.
Such impropriety was on display in crucial regular season-ending games this month.
Tim Tebow of Florida—who won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore two years ago but finished a deserved fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting this year—wore those glare-reducing patches under each eye in a showdown game with Alabama. There was a Biblical reference on display as television cameras focused on Tebow’s “John 16:33” lettering on his under-eye patches.
If you took the trouble to look up John 16:33 in the Bible, you would see these words: “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart. I have overcome the world.” Unfortunately for Tebow, he had trouble, but he did not overcome Alabama.
In the Sports Illustrated article on the Nebraska-Texas game, we read that during the timeout before the last-second game winning field goal, holder Jordan Shipley whispered a verse from the Book of Jeremiah into the ear of kicker Hunter Lawrence: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord.”
Come on. Did the Texas kick-holder really believe the Lord had any interest in who won the Big 12 conference championship?
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