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Mike Downey

Oh, Go Ahead and Give It to Tim Brown

November 15, 1987|Mike Downey

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — They are going to give out this Heisman thing, and there is nothing we can do to stop it.

It is too late to convince everybody to check the box on their ballots marked: "None of the above."

No way we are going to get those Heisman people to abstain from passing out their cute little trophy this season.

They are going to give the thing to somebody, so prepare yourself. Remember, it doesn't always go to O.J. Simpson or Marcus Allen. Sometimes it goes to Terry Baker or Gary Beban. Some years the O.J. who wins the Heisman is an Ordinary Joe.

It's not the end of the world if some Superman doesn't get it, so stop bawling about it.

They probably are going to give it to Tim Brown, who plays right here, at Notre Dame.

And the cry, from some, goes like so:

If Tim Brown played for any other school, there is no way he would have a shot at the Heisman Trophy.

If some player from Eastern New Mexico Methodist played flanker and handled the ball as seldom as Tim Brown does, he would be lucky to make all-conference.

Well, what are we supposed to do? Ask Tim Brown to transfer? Demand that he change positions? Become a tailback and run the ball 35 times a game? Prove that he deserves this thing?

Does Lorenzo White of Michigan State show what a real football player can do, when he runs up ridiculous totals like the ones he got Saturday against Indiana--close to 300 yards, on close to 60 carries?

Does Gordie Lockbaum of Holy Cross show what a real football player can do, when he goes both ways, plays offense and defense--does just about everything there is to do on a football field, except lateral to himself?

No, Tim Brown is just as deserving a candidate as anybody who is involved in every single play. You can make a case for Nebraska quarterback Steve Taylor and a couple of others, but trust us on this one, Tim Brown would make a worthy winner.

You shouldn't hold it against him, just because he does what he does for Notre Dame.

It's not his problem that Gordie Lockbaum picked some Catholic school in Massachusetts instead of one in Indiana.

There also is an argument that football players from the East (and Midwest) get more attention than football players from the West. Between the lines here, we are supposed to read: Poor Gaston Green isn't getting treated fairly.

Yep, all those USC running backs sure did have trouble winning over those darned Heisman voters from the East.

It's all politics and publicity and leverage and luck. And, mostly, it is a lot of bull. But, it's sort of fun bull, so we all get caught up in it.

Awards have become a way of life in sports. We are stuck with them. We spend more than half the season wondering who is going to win them. Before the All-Star break in major league baseball, people already are speculating who the favorites in the most valuable player races are. People were pushing Heisman Trophy candidates before the college football season even started.

It would be wonderful if we could do away with these awards. Get back to worrying more about team stuff, and less about individual stuff.

You never hear about athletes rejecting the whole concept of awards, the way Marlon Brando, George C. Scott, Woody Allen, Bill Cosby and certain other actors do.

One reason is that athletes have learned there is money in it. They have discovered the big fad of the '80s, the incentive clause, which entitles them to huge cash bonuses if they should capture certain awards.

A lot of attention was paid Jeffrey Leonard of the San Francisco Giants, when it was learned that he had a clause in his contract guaranteeing him $50,000 for being named Most Valuable Player of the league playoffs. That's a lot of money. Some people forget that Leonard wasn't even going to be in the starting lineup for the opening game of the playoffs until St. Louis had to change to a left-handed pitcher at the last minute.

Baseball is in the process of dispensing its big awards, even as we speak. We hope the winners enjoy them.

The winner of the National League's Cy Young Award, for best pitcher in the league, pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies, and the winner of the American League's award pitched for the Boston Red Sox. The only thing these teams knew about the pennant races was what they read in the newspapers.

The Most Valuable Player of the National League is very likely going to be an outfielder from the Chicago Cubs, who finished in last place.

This is why, at some functions, such as the NCAA basketball tournaments, the award for individual achievement is clearly identified as belonging to the Most Outstanding Player. "Valuable" implies a player's worth to his team. The trouble is, being a "MOP" just doesn't have much ring to it.

There is nothing wrong with honoring somebody for individual achievement. Actors do that.

But there is nothing wrong with awarding the Heisman Trophy to someone who was extremely valuable to his team, as Tim Brown has been, rather than someone who piled up better statistics.

So, go ahead. Give it to him. Heisman would be proud.

Whoever the hell Heisman was.

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