Dr. Heisman or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Award
The Heisman Trophy seems all but locked up for Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, but there are five other candidates making their way to New York. This year, as in others, the idea of what the award means has come up. Is the Heisman losing some of its luster? Do the voting guidelines need to be reevaluated?
Martin Rickman: We’re full-on inside awards season, Mr. Hot Tub, and that means campaigning, complaining and defining exactly what an award means. The big prize is the Heisman, and this year seems to be one in which a lot of things could happen. What’s your general stance on the Heisman?
Celebrity Hot Tub: My stance remains the same as always: The Heisman will receive no love from me until it does something interesting, like throw a punter or a defensive lineman in the mix. As of now, it’s a morality play that’s two hours too long. But maybe that’s just me. Is there anything interesting or worthwhile about the race for the world’s most famous centerpiece this year?
MR: Not more than any other year. The situation with Winston was unresolved for a while, which left the door open for some dark-horse candidates, but even then most of them were still quarterbacks. We already have plenty of quarterback awards. My biggest problem with the Heisman is that it’s become the equivalent of the MVP in baseball. People seem to care way more about the logistics of it than giving it to someone who had a truly special season or represented college football in a crazy way. Writers take to a soapbox endlessly talking about what the Heisman means, and some even use their votes to make a point of some kind. Which leaves us spending more time talking about the award than the athletes we’re supposed to be celebrating.
CHT: Per its mission statement, the Heisman is supposed to signify “the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.” Does that have to mean MVP, or even the best player in the nation? Couldn’t it be, for instance, someone like Missouri’s Henry Josey, who doesn’t have amazing numbers nationally but has been fantastic to watch given the injury from which he came back? Or is that just another subjective determination of what’s excellent?
MR: I have no idea. And that’s the problem. What about the Rhodes Scholar who just so happens to play defensive back? Or the guy who has volunteered in Appalachia every year since he was in middle school? Or, like you said, the guy who worked his way back from a horrific, potentially career-ending injury only to help his team reach a conference title game? Instead, the award has become an arena to pit talking points like ‘best player on best team’ versus ‘stats’ versus ‘analytics’ versus ‘well doggone it he’s one heck of a leader and he gets it.’ It all becomes noise, and people start getting nasty. Anything that gets people sniping at each other turns me off in general. Is there a way to solve this? Or is the Heisman Trophy stuck in this weird sort of purgatory until another award becomes more important or it eventually just dies off?
CHT: My solution is this: Let’s all just agree to stop caring. Fighting about who makes the championship game is one thing, because it affects so many people and is, you know, supposed to be meaningful. The Heisman Trophy is only “important” if we all agree it is. And it’s not like we even treat the winners that well! If Sam Bradford has a lousy game for the Rams, nobody says “Hey, lay off — that guy won the Heisman.”
MR: So your solution is to ignore it until it disappears — like a reverse Tinker Bell Theorem?
CHT: It won’t disappear, but what makes it so much more important than the other awards? WHY CAN’T WE FIGHT ABOUT THE GROZA?
MR: Given how much kicking impacts the game, maybe we should be fighting about the Groza. If Alabama’s kicker had a Groza Moment in the Iron Bowl, ‘Kick Six’ would’ve never happened. Maybe this is my thing with awards: I never see things definitively enough to pick one single guy for anything. Lots of factors lead to a player’s success. A quarterback is only as good as his line, and a receiver is only as good as his quarterback. A linebacker is able to make plays because his fellow defenders make the other team pay if it double-teams him. I realize there will always be year-end lists. Heck, we’re ranking bottom-shelf whiskey now. But something seems so catty about saying, “Well, Jordan Lynch’s numbers don’t mean anything because he plays here but yeah our guy is the best — what do you mean he’s helped by NFL prospects all over the field?” Nonsense. Apples and oranges.
CHT: OK, new plan. We vote for the Heisman finalists — three, five, whatever — and then bring them to New York, as usual. But the vote doesn’t decide the winner. What does? AMERICAN GLADIATORS. You want that trophy, AJ McCarron? Go beat Laser at Hang Tough.
MR: But then every year Nitro would win the Heisman — oh wait, actually you’re right. This method is way better. #Nitro4Heisman.
CHT: NITRO FOR HEISMAN.