Friday, November 09, 2007

HOW HEISMAN HYPE HURTS

Bears,
Tonight's Big C Hall of Fame Dinner will be one for the books.

Some greats are going in: Bob Albo, Mike White, and of course "Harry", Loren Hawley.

The lies we'll tell. The laughs we'll have. The memories we'll share.

Naturally, it got me to thinking about athletes and Cal.

Sports weren't necessarily better "back in the day". But they surely were different.

There was a play in the ASU game which, both, summed up the Bears' season this year, and pointed out how much more difficult it is to be a college athlete today.

Deep in the 4th quarter, Longshore moved left, was somewhat pressured, threw off his back foot to a wide open DeSean. You know the rest.

Even my barber, Ernie, pointed out that rather than come back to possibly break up the pass, DeSean threw up his hands in exasperation, (before eventually gathering himself and chasing down the DB).

The plight of the Bears this year can be summed up in two alliterative words. “Frustration” is one of them.

Unlike years past, the O line, awesome as it is, has bent just a bit, and (like on that play) not given Longshore or Forsett, the dominating support they need to succeed at the elite level. They must be frustrated.

Longshore is hurt and gets tired late in the games. He’s very courageous and gutsy, but it must be frustrating to not be able to deliver the ball the way he wants and no doubt thinks he can.

No doubt that wasn’t the only time this year DeSean has been wide upon and the ball either didn’t go his way or wasn’t exactly on target. With his talent and competitive nature, it must be terribly frustrating!

In years past, when QB’s were slightly pressured, balls under thrown, or players hurt we barely noticed. It was par for the course. We were Cal—now national rankings are on the line. Big money is involved.

And we, the faithful, want so much to bask in the light of their glory.
What we’ve all learned, however, is that to play at the elite level of the SC’s Florida schools, or the SEC, is that one needs so many good players, that when one comes up short, another takes his place and no one notices the drop off.

Injuries are a part of football. How about Rulon Davis? He makes two sacks in the first quarter and he hasn’t played in weeks. Then he, too, gets re-injured. What a difference his presence would have made this year.

No on knows how good young Longshore is because he’s been playing on one foot.

Should he be replaced? Only Tedford has the right perspective on that. Given that no one wants to win more than he does, his decision to go with a less than 100% QB, must be based on his best judgment that, even hobbled, the team has a better chance to win with him in there.

Were it otherwise, someone else would be playing. How can folks second guess him?

Jackson’s frustration is not unique to Cal.

Below are the pre-season picks for the Heisman and their teams’ preseason and current BCS ranking.

Preseason Rank Current BCS Rank

John David Booty, Sr., QB, USC: 1 17
Darren McFadden, Jr., RB, Arkansas: 21 NR
Steve Slaton, Jr., RB, West Virginia 3 7
Colt Brennan, Sr., QB, Hawai'i: 23 16
Mike Hart, Sr., RB, Michigan: 5 12
Patrick White, Jr., QB, West Virginia: 3 7
Jamaal Charles, Jr., RB, Texas: 4 14
DeSean Jackson, Jr., WR, Cal: 12 NR
Chad Henne, Sr., QB, Michigan: 5 12
Brian Brohm, Sr., QB, Louisville: 10 NR


Colt Brennan’s team is the only team with a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate which is ranked higher today than it was before the season.

Three teams are not even ranked in the BCS. West Virginia, with two preseason Heisman candidates is holding fairly steady, though they’ve played schools like Marshal and barely held on last week against Louisville (5-5).


As my friend Willy says, “In our day Saturday’s game was everything. It’s all we cared about. Today there is just so much “Stuff” out there. You’ve got Sports Center, Personal Web Sites, interviews, Posse’s, agents, drugs, national polls, unbelievable media attention, hero worship, and of course, the Heisman watch.”

These kids (all of them all over the country) can quote Herb Streit or tell you who Lee Corso picked to win and by how much.

It takes a lot of focus off the simple duty of playing the game week in and week out.

Concentrating on getting the Heisman is not conducive to the type of team play required to win.

Pete Carol and SC pulled it off three out of the past five years. They’ve been remarkable. Most other teams have melted under the pressure of the “Heisman Watch”, and the concurrent media attention which goes with it.

This is not to make excuses for Cal or any other team. They’re all in it together.

To win, 22 guys have to play each and every play each and every game. Their minds can't be wondering.

The challenge for modern day coaches is to figure out how to get these kids focused and ready to play with all the distractions going on around them.

I don't envy them. It’s an impossible task. That's why an SC with unbelievable talent and depth on paper can lose to a Stanford State.

College football has always been about “any given Saturday.” That is one of its charms. But now it is more so than ever.

DeSean didn’t ask to be a Heisman candidate. It was thrust upon him by the national media (and perhaps our sports marketing staff, which was doing its job in this modern web-site era).

But coping with that kind of attention at such a young age can’t be easy—and by definition is not conducive to “team work or team play.”

I don’t know what DeSean was thinking about when he threw his hands over his head. I ‘m sure he regrets it.

It was a youthful error in judgment. (Ironically, were it not on tape, we might have all missed it). It didn’t cost us the game. But it wasn’t an action which helped his team to succeed.

It was an act of utter frustration which, though perfectly understandable, is not conducive to winning at the elite level.

When one looks at the records of the other teams with preseason Heisman candidates, it’s impossible not to conclude that there could very well be some correlation.

We know there's no "I". Dare we be so corny as to say there's no “Hei(sman)” in T.E.A.M.

See you in the parking lot tomorrow. Look for an upset. And congrats to all the inductees.

Go Bears,
Jeffrey Earl Warren '70

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