A Sour Ending to the Heisman Trophy Award Ceremony
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Because I did not embrace the sporting world as a child, I had even less interest in watching sports as an adult. College football rated lower on my list of what-to-do-in-my-spare-time interests than going on a cruise, and that's really saying something.
This was true until nine years ago when I met Mr. Patience and Understanding. His love of college football was contagious, and once he explained the rules to me and that it's called a "uniform," not an "outfit," I became as much of a fan as he.
Since we both attended University of Oregon, we love and support the Ducks. Cheering for our team hand-in-hand these past few years on television, at Autzen Stadium, and around the country for away games has been a highlight of our romance and a source of togetherness and joy with friends and family.
We hunkered down Saturday night, lit the fire, and watched with smiles as the outstanding young gentleman Marcus Mariota took home the Heisman Trophy. When he made his acceptance speech, Marcus reminded us of not only his incredible personality and perseverance, but stirred in all of us a desire to be a better person.
To try harder.
To do well.
To be more kind.
To never give up.
Saturday night, Marcus Mariota made his friends, his family, his home state of Hawaii, and his adopted state of Oregon swell with pride, awe, and the knowledge that we were all witnessing something unique. Why was this Heisman ceremony different from recent years? Because Mariota's inclusion this year as a finalist made the Heisman Trophy award feel like it was about a hell of a lot more than points, passes and yards run - it was about character as well.
This guy is special. During his acceptance speech, Mariota was quick to give credit to the other Ducks, saying, "This award belongs to my teammates. I love every single one of you."
Marcus gave his parents a tribute most of us with children dream of. It was deeply compelling and for just a moment I was so moved I felt like he could have been my son too, except I'm WAY too young to have a kid that age.
OK, not really.
"Kind." "Gracious." "Humble." "Selfless." "Responsible." "Dependable." "Uplifting." "Supportive." "Team-focused." "Ethical." "Uncompromisingly sportsmanlike." These are all words commonly used to describe Marcus Mariota.
And yet, during an awards ceremony that was alternately exciting, uncomfortable, and tear-jerking, the programmers pulled a stunt that is the antithesis to all those descriptors and which I imagine may have stolen a small part of Mariota's jubilation from an otherwise perfect (albeit it nerve-wracking) evening.
Were you watching? Did you notice?
For reasons I will never understand, the program announced the vote tally live on national television with a gleefully mean-spirited rubbing of the salt into the publicly displayed wounds of Melvin Gordon and Amari Cooper, the other two of the three Heisman Tropy finalists.
I confess I don't usually watch this ceremony, so maybe this is the way things usually go. If so, please consider my comments in the vacuum of ignorance in which they may reside.
From the moment Marcus Mariota was announced as the winner, those numbers were made available on the Internet and in many other locations. They did not need to be broadcast, nor should they have been, during the presentation of the trophy.
This was the dog shit cherry on the best football sundae Oregon football fans have ever had. I've never seen anything like it. Award ceremonies aren't trials and I see no reason to publicly poll the jury while the losers are still captive in their seats and on-camera.
As the announcer blasted us with the vote statistics we were treated to shots of Gordon and Cooper, understandably downcast and embarrassed at the discrepancy of the numbers. It was a blow-out and Marcus won by a devastating margin that I see no need to repeat here.
To witness these two exceptional athletes look forlornly into their hands as the numbers were announced was painful. The mom in me wanted to pat them each on the head, give them a hug, and hand them a warm chocolate chip cookie and a glass of milk with a "there, there, you did great, son!"
"Painful" doesn't go quite far enough.
It was sad.
It was extremely awkward.
It was a cringe-inducing moment ugly and shocking in not only how totally unnecessary it was but also in its insensitivity to the other finalists and in its braying swagger - an arrogant and unlikable swagger that Marcus not only eschews but likely despises.
Perhaps I am attributing feelings to Mr. Mariota that he does not share with me, but I'm a pretty good judge of people and my hunches usually pan out. I wondered as this display was forced upon the viewers whether he was thinking, "Seriously? Why is this happening?"
Perhaps too I am overestimating the impact on Gordon and Cooper. Perhaps I am projecting my own fear of public humiliation and failure onto these two young and accomplished men. Regardless, I can't express enough the distaste it left me with and the amount of sympathy I had for Gordon and Cooper: two guys who just like our beloved Marcus Mariota played their hearts out this season and cherished the idea of winning the most prestigious award in college football.
Unfortunately, Marcus hasn't given me his reaction to this portion of the Heisman televised ceremony because we haven't spoken since our fight concerning the Civil War game, in which I took him to task for the awful yellow socks the Ducks selected and displayed on the field in all their garish audacity.
"Robin, I played great in that game! I completed 19 of 25 passes for 367 yards and four touchdowns, and as for running? 39 yards and two touchdowns!"
"Sorry Marcus, the outfit is half the fun for me, and those socks weren't doing any favors for the team's reputation as having snazzy costumes."
"Robin, they aren't 'costumes' or 'outfits,' they are 'uniforms.'"
"Whatever. I take my fashion seriously and you won't win the Heisman with such a glaring lack of style."
Obviously I was wrong, so Marcus: please forgive me? Give me a call and we can make up, and maybe you can weigh in on this fiasco. I found it beneath the Heisman Trophy Trust, the National College Football Awards Association, and decent people everywhere - most especially you.
To Mr. Mariota I say: Marcus, congratulations to you because you truly deserve this honor. The people of Oregon are proud to have shared your college career with you. We look forward to watching you make NFL history and will always consider you our native son, even if you hail from a wee bit west of our fine state. Mahalo!
To the Heisman Trophy Trust and the National College Football Awards Association, I ask you the following simple question:
Why can we not simply celebrate the accomplishments of one man without denigrating the accomplishments of others? Why can we not elevate those whom we feel exemplify sportsmanship without making unflattering comparisons to those who share in the competition?
When is it enough to say, “we win,” without simultaneously screaming, “we are better than you!"
I daresay Marcus Mariota would opine it is honor enough to be selected as a Heisman finalist and unwise to focus repeatedly upon statistics that made him so. And that is why Mariota won this coveted award, and why he will always serve as a phenomenal example to our young men and women who compete in any arena: be it sports, academics, or who can create the best Oregon Ducks outfit.
Related Slideshow: Reactions to Mariota Winning The Heisman
Mariota was an inspiration in his home state. He further validated the Oregon football program," Tim Rohan wrote. "And he has become viewed as the N.C.A.A.’s ideal student-athlete, especially after character issues in part defined the previous two Heisman winners, Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel."
I have no idea if Mariota will make it as a pro quarterback; of all the alchemical sciences, quarterback evaluation has become the most confounding to me," Weinreb wrote. "Given Mariota's prodigious accuracy (he's thrown six interceptions in the past two years), intelligence and ability to run and throw with an equal measure of grace, I have to imagine he has a good shot."
"The sample size is small and the results are mixed when determining whether the reigning or current Heisman winner has an edge in head-to-head matchups," Sonnnone wrote. "In the previous two instances, a national title has been on the line, so the Jan. 1 semifinal will fittingly determine whether FSU or Oregon makes it to the national championship contest against the winner of Alabama-Ohio State."
"My ballot, in order, was Marcus Mariota, Amari Cooper and Melvin Gordon. I though there were the top three players in the nation, and that was before I went and looked at their statistics," Dohn Wrote. "In choosing Mariota first, it was based on watching him play, and his ability to make the correct reads and throw the ball with tremendous accuracy while playing at a high level."
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