Archive for January, 2010

Florida has the Gator “Chomp.” Oregon has their “O” hand gesture. Miami has the “U,” Texas has “Hook ’em Horns,” and the Red Raiders point finger pistols at the sky. Hand gestures in college sports are just cool. And nowadays they’re trendy, too.

A new Alabama tradition?

Everyone knows Alabama has a great and rich tradition. They even completed their trophy case last year with Mark Ingram’s Heisman Trophy. Alabama’s got a great fight song, a Million Dollar band, one of the best war cries in football with “Roll Tide Roll!“, and they’re called “the Crimson Tide,” one of the few sports team names that doesn’t end with an “s” and, again, one of the coolest names in sport.

About the only thing Alabama doesn’t have in its portfolio is a symbolic hand gesture. The closest they ever came was the two guys who held up a roll of toilet paper and a box of Tide detergent. But other than that Bama fans just scream and raise up the old number one (something they’ve been able to do a lot). Does Alabama need a symbolic hand gesture? Of course not…but then again, why not? Especially when Mark Ingram has already inadvertently invented one.

Remember Ingram’s first touchdown in the Rose Bowl, when he held up his hands to the camera? He did it to show off his snazzy Nike gloves with the stylized “A,” but it’s possible he also invented Alabama’s symbolic hand gesture.

Notice how his hands and arms form an “A?”

The Big A?

Maybe this was what Nike had in mind when they designed the glove. After all, they posted this picture on their website commentary on Bama’s NC win. One can’t help but notice that with the hands held together like that they form an “A.” And we all know Nike is all about starting trends, especially using teams or players who they think will be exhibiting standards of athletic excellence for years to come.

Alabama doesn’t need a gesture, but it would be cool to see 90k+ fans holding up “the Big A” at Bryant-Denny next year.

Now if we can only think of a nickname for the stadium. Florida has “the Swamp,” LSU has “Death Valley,” Michigan has “the Big House” and OSU has “the Horseshoe.” Would Bama fans turn murderous at the thought of calling their stadium anything but Bryant-Denny?

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There is no Heisman jinx. Sure, Mark Ingram became only the sixth player since 1950 to win the Heisman Trophy and the national championship in the same season, and only the second of the past eight seasons to win both (Matt Leinart ’04). It’s called a jinx, but all it really is is a testament that Heisman voters consistently pick the wrong guy to win.

Heisman winners also historically fail at the NFL level. Why would that be, do you suppose? It’s not because of the pressure of being a Heisman winner, that’s for certain. Elite athletes thrive on pressure. The only rational reasoning for it is, again, that Heisman voters are inherently unqualified to decide who the most outstanding college football player is.

They mitigate these failures by pointing out that Heisman excellence doesn’t necessarily parlay into future success as a football player. They say that it represents only a snapshot of a single season in a player’s career. His college career. Tim Tebow is the poster boy for this line of thinking. Tebow is obviously a great college football player, one of the greatest of all time, and everyone predicts him to fail at the next level. But then they all predicted Eric Crouch to succeed, didn’t they? So what do they know. Fact is, we’ll have to give Tebow the opportunity for failure–or success–to decide if the formula Heisman voters claim they use is what they say it is.

For Heisman voters, nothing could be worse for them than if Tebow failed at the pro level. Their entire system would be debunked.

Whatever formula it is, it’s is so ridiculous and so blatantly political in nature that often the runner-up goes on to have a successful pro career. For instance, Marshall Faulk finished second behind Gino Torretta in 1992. Rashaan Salaam beat out Steve McNair in 1994. See the trend?

The Heisman is a popularity contest first, and second it’s an award designed to reward itself. Meaning, low-profile athletes at schools that are not “elite” programs are not going to win. Only thirdly is the Heisman Trophy awarded for skill or merit.

But as they say, even a broken clock is right twice a day.  And sometimes Heisman voters get it right. Like 2009, for instance.

Mark Ingram didn’t have the most yards or touchdowns, but was clearly the most outstanding player in college football in the ’09 season. And he proved it, too. After winning the award he went on to dominate in the BCS National Championship game, proving that he is both an elusive back as well as a bruising runner who simply could not be brought down by the first attempt.

Time will tell, certainly, whether or not Ingram will be successful in the long run, but for the moment it looks as if, finally, Heisman voters are trying to get it right.

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