I'm forgetting, for a second, that I'm a die-hard college football fan; that I've drafted Reggie Bush in at least two fantasy football leagues since he was drafted by the New Orleans Saints; that every year I form a vehement opinion on who should win the Heisman trophy that I refuse to shut up about for two weeks.
The decision of the Heisman Trust to accept Reggie Bush's forfeiture of his 2005 Heisman Trophy victory angers me most as a lover of history.
Awards ceremonies make for awful television, but every year I'll tune in to the Heisman ceremony and watch that gala of self-congratulation unfold. What's the appeal? I've already seen these athletes play all year, heard the arguments for their respective Heisman candidacies debated ceaselessly on "PTI," "Around the Horn" and that terrible show Jim Rome hosts that airs during what's otherwise a 4:30 p.m. black hole of daytime cable.
It probably has a lot to do with the line up of former winners, featured before each year's winner is revealed. The parade of worthies ranges from the living legends -- Archie Griffin's touch has been known to cure Scrofula -- to those whose apparent free time just seems awkward. (Jason White and Eric Crouch, we're looking at you. And we're eagerly anticipating the addition of Troy Smith and Matt Leinart to the club later this year.)
Awards only matter if they have context. Do I care that much which running back comes away with the Doak Walker award? No, not really. It's not that the award honoring the nation's top collegiate running back isn't important, but I simply can't drum up much interest in an honor whose previous winners I can barely list. That may be my fault more than anyone's -- although, really: Chris Perry? -- but what makes the Heisman so special is that we all immediately know what it stands for.
When Alabama's Mark Ingram captured the Heisman last year, I could immediately recognize the pantheon of college football legends he gained entry to. Ditto for even some of the award's less decorated and prominent winners, be they Jason White (Oklahoma, 2003) or Gino Torretta (Miami, 1992). Former Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith's career may have already flamed out only four years after his Heisman triumph, but I'll always remember watching him run roughshod over the Big 10 in 2007, indomitable until he ran into an SEC buzzsaw in the BCS National Championship Game.
To pretend, as the Heisman Trust is, that Reggie Bush's award never happened not only strains credulity, but does more than anything else in the trophy's 75-year history to diminish its relevance. To claim that Bush's on-field dominance, because of what amounts to a series of victimless, small-scale infractions at the University of Southern California, is suddenly best swept under the rug is so lacking in perspective as to be offensive.
The Heisman Trust here commits the same logical fallacy as the Hall of Fame voters of the Baseball Writers of Association of America when they deny suspected steroid users their rightful place of remembrance among the sport's all time greats. How is it or will it be tenable to restrict Mark McGwire, or Sammy Sosa or -- eventually -- Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez from the museum when known users have already been granted that honor? (Deadball era pitcher Pud Galvin was injecting himself with monkey testosterone in 1889; Mickey Mantle's use of anabolic steroids is attested fact.)
Likewise, unless the Heisman Trust is absolutely certain that Bush is the only violator of NCAA policies to ever receive their award, then they've created an impossible to maintain standard that will inevitably blow up in their face. Does anyone believe the Heisman Trust would strip Archie Griffin of his honors if untoward information were to be revealed concerning him? Doubtful.
Why even watch this year's ceremony, if the winner could be stripped of the honor were minor infractions to come to light years down the road? Suddenly, the Heisman Trust went from engraving the names of their honorees in stone to driftwood, and their award became a whole lot less important to the future of college football. Maybe this year, I won't even watch -- I can just declare my own winner a half-decade later? If the Heisman Trust has its way, it would have just as much meaning, anyway.