Longhorns blog Burnt Orange Nation asked Joey and I a series of questions on the upcoming season. We answered with tremendous detail. You can check out the Q&A session here, which goes as you might expect. Probably nothing you haven't heard already if you're a Michigan fan, but it's better than getting kicked in the ribs.
The Heisman trophy -- proclaimed by itself and everyone else to be the most prestigious individual award in American sports -- has a dirty little secret: it sucks. Thrall to its diverse and more-than-slightly befuddled voting constituency, more often than not the Heisman goes to a default candidate chosen more for his circumstances than his magnificence. Some months later he usually loses a bowl game; some months after that he's drafted in the seventh round. He goes on to have a nondescript Arena League career and marries a girl who could probably be a model -- but not a Victoria's Secret one.
For every Barry Sanders there is a Ron Dayne; for every probably-worthy QB winner like Matt Leinart there are a half dozen noodle-armed system quarterbacks who shouldn't be let within 20 feet of the trophy: Detmer, Ware, Toretta, Weinke, etc. What does it say about an award when you can construct an clever list of ten rules that reduce the field to a half-dozen possibilities before the season starts? It says that you're eliminating 99% of everyone in college football before the first game. And it says that maybe this voting thing isn't working out so well.
We're in good hands here, people.
We're all in agreement as to who should not receive the trophy: losers. More difficult is determining who should get the damn thing, but as I always say, when dealing with matters of superiority and inferiority, Nietzsche is your man. Except I never say that.
(A note for actual philosophy-people: what follows is going to be a very pop understanding of Nietzsche because the popular concepts associated with Nietzsche fit better with what I'm driving at than the actual complicated bits, which I haven't attempted to intepret correctly anyway. A pre-emptive apology for spreading ign'ance.)
So. WWND? First, grow an amazing mustache. Second, take the problem at hand -- who is the best football player -- and attempt to mesh it with his understanding of human nature:
[Anything which] is a living and not a dying body... will have to be an incarnate will to power, it will strive to grow, spread, seize, become predominant â€” not from any morality or immorality but because it is living and because life simply is will to power.
Faced with a game of stark military aggression, Nietzsche would probably see two kinds of players: those who respond out of fear and those who impose their will on things. Meatheads call the latter "swagger." Nietzche would see masters and slaves. The giant guy in the burnt orange loping through the secondary? Master. We're looking for masters, looking for those whose understanding of the game comes from a knowledge of what they can do instead of what they fear their opponents can. We're looking for those who transcend: ubermensch. Overman.
Whereas it was Nietzsche's overman who "balances over an empty space," from the perspective of the ardent college football fan it is we who teeter over an abyss of the unknown, emotional well-being on the knife's edge, waiting for someone to rise up and push us forward... or back. As anyone who's spent too much time with Sid Meier knows, Nietzche accidentally stumbled across a gorgeous description for the sort of sporting event that you realize is far too important to you:
Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman--a rope over an abyss. A dangerous across, a dangerous on-the-way, a dangerous looking-back, a dangerous shuddering and stopping.
The fan is simultaneously tied and carried by "those who cross over," looking down, looking across, eyeing the opposing forces. We cling to the handholds afforded by our captor-champions, and watch as a battle -- our battle -- unfolds on a bridge of rope.
The ideal Heisman candidate is frightening to behold unless he is on your side, in which case he is your flagbearer and protector. The ideal candidate is a force of nature that rolls through his opposition against tremendous odds. His name is graven on the tombstone of instant replay's creator as a justification. He is not sunnily efficient, or competent, or a great fat beast who crushes only the weak. He is slightly terrifying. There is a small but real possibility that he is the escaped prototype of a CIA-developed breed of unkillable soldiers; he is not man; he is overman.
Items Of Interest
- ubermenschliche. that's a German adverb for "superhuman" that I'm appropriating as a noun in this context. What are ubermenschliche? Plays that etch themselves into college football history for sheer amazement value; plays that seem like magic we can't understand. At their best, these are exertions of one player's will on all those around them: Howard's Heisman-pose-generating return; Roy Williams's flying squirrel attack; Leinart's forth-and-nine fade. The Heisman voters usually do get this right by focusing on the plays in a season which seem like pure exertions of will, but the emphasis on them here will be even greater. Anyone who picks up the shattered pieces of a season and fuses the shards back together will have a leg up.
- Bowl Games. The Heisman's given out before the bowls occur, probably due to college football's odd, longstanding opinion that bowl games were cute exhibitions or something. Bowl statistics didn't even count towards records until very recently. Obviously the voters can't take bowls into account unless they have a time machine, but some Heisman trophies are obsolete by January 1st. It would be silly for a retrospective look to ignore some of the greatest performances in college football history.
- In the same vein: The last couple games of the regular season. For some reason Heisman voters are allowed to submit ballots before the end of the regular season. Some take advantage of this opportunity every year. This enterprise, er, doesn't.
- (Some) NFL performance. the Heisman is a college award and shouldn't go to whoever gets drafted #1 in a particular year, but the NFL performance of a particular player can help confirm or disconfirm the talents of certain players who play at small schools or amongst a horde of other stars that may camouflage their weaknesses. Note that players not ticketed for NFL success -- option quarterbacks, 5'9" wide receivers, guys playing on six knee surgeries -- are not punished for their circumstances.
Items Of Disinterest
- Damned numbers. Right, right, I'm Mr. Computer Man with the charts and tables and stuff, but all of those things apply to teams. Attempting to divine which player's overall performance was superior because of a touchdown here or two hundred yards racked up against Ball State is impossible.
- Quarterbacks and running backs. Not prejudicially, mind you, but it's ridiculous that since 1935 only five players (Larry Kelley, Leon Hart, Tim Brown, Desmond Howard, and Charles Woodson) who haven't played the aforementioned positions have happened to be the best players in the country. That's wrong.
- Who you play for. Obviously quality of opposition matters, and it's hard to pick up ubermenschliche credit if you're not playing in important games, but we judge on the content of talent, not color of helmet.
- Eligibility. If you're a freshman and the best player in the country, it's your award.
- Career achievements. even if you've been good for the past three years, no one cares.
First Up: the most personally grating Heisman to Michigan fans in the past ten or so years: 1999. Ron Dayn
e won it largely for griding Montana A&M State under his heel but never beat or even cracked 100 against Michigan in his entire career. Nominate candidates in the comments.
I'm not sure I like it when Bruce Feldman picks out ten "spring revelations" from programs around the country and settles on Obi Oluigbo as number four. I mean, it's nice and all, but he's a fullback and with Mike DeBord back in the saddle at offensive coordinator any excuse to try the draw on second and twelve is the cause of heebie-jeebies. Feldman knows Carr, though:
Thanks to his improved quickness, Oluigbo is a guy Lloyd Carr is kind of excited about this spring.
Carr is, indeed, mildly intruiged by the possibility of that fullback dude blocking someone, but not enough to miss his Father Dowling Mysteries reruns.
Also on Feldman's list are Michigan State safety Nehemiah Warrick -- Peter's brother and a JUCO transfer -- and Ohio State freshman linebacker Ross Homan, who is reported to look like AJ Hawk. Poor guy. A piece of advice for Homan: try not to wander by any swamps, lagoons, or other areas where amorous bipeds twisted by radiation might take a fancy to you and your apparently cro-magnon visage.
FYI: it appears that the Feld-blog has been released into the wild. 'Tis free to non-OMG-Insiders, as are a fair number of other ESPN blogs. In case you hadn't wandered over there in a while.
Don't you have a headliney-checker guy or something? The south is abuzz over 'Bama booster Logan Young's recent death at the hands of an unknown assailant (though the "violent, bloody struggle" could apparently have been an "accident" according to Memphis police).
The reason I bring up this apparently unrelated piece of news is that an AP article trickled across my newsreader -- it's linked above in the "struggle" quote -- with this headline:
Must... not... laugh... at... violent... death. Maybe just a titter?
This is why Bill Walsh said "every copy desk could use a 13-year-old boy" in Lapsing Into a Comma*:
A puerile sense of humor can be a big asset in the word business. I call it the Beavis and Butthead factor. (Heh heh -- he said "big asset"!)
This means you should know why Court Deals Blow To Homosexuals is a bad headline. You should know that the previous sentence was not the place to abbreviate headline.
*(Yes, I am the kind of person who owns a book on usage and remembers enough of it to fetch it when appropriate. I'm the kind of person who reads books on usage and is pleased when the other books on usage I've read are referenced approvingly. You are given permission to give up all hope for me now.)
Also: Young's death has apparently caused the south to go all crazy-like. They're attacking innocent ninjas in Georgia. Ninja is probably going to flip out and sue. And as long as we're on the topic of headlines, Georgia student newspaper The Red And Black gets one million points for this one:
ATF rids Univ. of ninja threat
The industrious beaver-elf mulattos that sit next to the forge in my basement pumping out analysis after analysis of football/basketball/hockey minutiae dread the arrival of this coming Saturday more than any other, for it is then that I have no further use for them and set them free -- "set free," of course, being another way of putting "sell into Keebler slavery." I will then spend the summer tending their larva; in August the next generation will hatch and be introduced to their cruel half-cat, half-man taskmasters. Fettered, blindered, and abandoned, they will spend the next six to eight months of their lives painstakingly assembling the sentences offered in this space for your amusement and where the hell was I going with this?
Ah. Yes. Other than a scattered softball or baseball update, Michigan sports will reach the deep offseason after Saturday's spring game. This enterprise will trundle on. But how? With tangentially relevant posts of dubious value, recruiting updates, and more stat-bashing. The recruiting stuff is fairly straightforward, but the others are fairly wide open. The point: I'm taking suggestions. Currently on the docket, FYI:
- Full-fledged diatribe against offsides in hockey.
- The 50 Most Loathsome People in Sports
- The (Friedrich) Nietzsche Theory of the Heisman
- Application of The (Friedrich) Nietzsche Theory to Heismans of the past 15 or so years.
I may or may not replicate the extensive Big Ten previews from a year ago. Johnny from RBUAS may take that torch up, in which case I can do other things -- one only needs a single excessively detailed preview.
Anyway, there are four months here and we have to fill them all somehow. If you've got ideas, offer away.
Due to a change in plans that had me driving until now, I have nothing for you today. Lo siento. Here's this article about Alex Legion with quotes from his coach, though.
This is just like that bit in Cruel Intentions... er, I mean Dangerous Liasons. What the hell am I talking about? Here's a quote from presumptive NHL signee Matt Hunwick:
"If Jack's back, and he's our highest-profile player, I can't see why anyone else should leave," Hunwick said. "That tells you how special Michigan really is."
Earlier in the article Antoine Pitts claims that...
Last week, [TJ] Hensick and Hunwick both said there's always a slim chance they could leave early but couldn't see themselves giving up their senior years.
... without offering the actual quotes up for reassurance. Could it be true? Or is this all a cynical ploy that will unravel with the revelation of a cocaine addiction and the playing of "Bittersweet Symphony"? Stay tuned! Or something!
I for one refuse to believe that Michigan will escape the offseason without a defection until I verify the existence of each player during the Blue-White game in the fall. But... hope?
(via Yost Built)
Talk about burying the lede. BGS posted something about a bunch of Notre Dame neutral site games against the likes of South Florida but left this beauty of a phrase uncommented upon:
At last weekend's Rockne Dinner in Chicago, between Charlie saying the only reason he'd leave ND is if he were fired, he died, or he retired, and Aaron Taylor's claim that he's leaving ABC Sports to become an elementary school teacher, the big news was Kevin White's announcement of some of the locations for future "neutral site" Notre Dame games.
O frabjous day! No more banalities uttered from the side of Taylor's mouth. No more shiny head. No more broken knuckles from punching the TV*.
Also: are we sure Taylor said "teacher" and not "student"? I'm just sayin'.
*(except when Dick Vitale, Bill Walton, and many, many others are on it. So that should probably read "fractionally fewer" broken knuckles.)