The quarterback of the big-time football team at the large state
university appears at the door of his school's energetic sports
information director. The new season is approaching, and the
public-relations machinery is already working at full steam. The
quarterback is terrified.
"What's the deal here?" he shouts.
"What deal?" the S.I.D. replies.
"This!" the quarterback yells, throwing a glossy, four-color,
48-page magazine across the room. The quarterback's picture is
on the cover of the publication. He is shown in the middle of
his passing motion, the ball sure to leave his hand before he is
smothered by an onrushing lineman in the uniform of the large
state university's traditional rival.
August 25, 1996
The words HEISMAN HOPEFUL are splashed across the photo. Now the
quarterback looks as if he has been told he has contracted a
rare disease. "Who told you to do this?" he screams.
"Nobody...everybody," the S.I.D. sputters. "This is what we do
for our great players. We want you to get the award for being
the best. We print up the magazine and send it to the Heisman
voters, and in December you get the award. You don't like the
magazine? The pictures of you in your little Pop Warner uniform?
The stories about your mom, your dad, your dog?"
"You don't like living?" the quarterback bellows, slamming his
meaty hands on the S.I.D.'s desk.
Heisman hopeful. The quarterback has been doing a little
research while on his highly paid no-show summer job as a
lifeguard at a nude beach. He has learned he would rather be
driving the third car in a five-car pileup than win the Heisman
Trophy. He would rather be attacked by rabid squirrels than have
his name mentioned in the same breath as this award.
"You want me to play for the New York Knicks?" he shouts. "Is
that it? You don't think I can play pro football?"
"Ah, Charlie Ward, 1993," the S.I.D. says. "No, we think--"
"You think I should play in Canada? I'm too short?"
"You must mean Doug Flutie, 1984. No, of course not--"
"You think I'm going to be a bust, ride the bench?"
"Do you mean Andre Ware, 1989? Ty Detmer, 1990? Desmond Howard,
1991? Gino Torretta, 1992?"
"You must be crazy," the quarterback yells. "You must think I
can't read or something. You want me to be drafted 14th like
Eddie George, 1995, rather than Number 1?"
The dreams the quarterback has had since childhood suddenly seem
doomed. The only question is whether his short-range future is
darker than his long-range future. Hasn't anyone else paid
attention to what happens to the winners of this award? Why
would anyone want to win it?
"You think I'm going to wind up in court with some Dream Team of
lawyers defending me?" he screams. "You think I'm going to be
trying on gloves for the jury and hearing debates about my Bruno
"Yes, well, O.J. Simpson, 1968, is an exception," the S.I.D.
"You think I'm going to wind up in the slammer for
"Is that Billy Cannon, 1959?"
"You think I'll wind up on drugs?"
"Are you referring to Charles White, 1979? George Rogers, 1980?"
"You think I'll die young?"
"Ernie Davis, 1961?"
"What are you trying to do to me?"
The S.I.D. tries to offer a defense. He grabs an almanac and
starts to shout out names. Barry Sanders, 1988, has done just
fine. Tim Brown, 1987. Bo Jackson, 1985, got hurt, but he played
two pro sports for a while. Jim Plunkett, 1970, won a Super Bowl
or two. What about Florida coach Steve Spurrier, 1966? He's
doing great. Roger Staubach, 1963. Paul Hornung, 1956.
"You think I'm going to be suspended for gambling?" the
The S.I.D. throws his hands in the air. It's too late to argue.
The magazines have been mailed to the voters and to media
outlets around the country. The campaign cannot be stopped. The
quarterback is a Heisman hopeful whether he likes it or not. TV
stations have received clips of him throwing during games and
studying at the library and visiting local hospitals.
The quarterback begins to sob. He says that part of him wants to
take care of this Heisman business with simple failure. He could
throw a few interceptions, fumble a few times, lose a couple of
big games to knock the large state university out of the
national rankings. That would end all speculation. Another part
of him, the part that surely will triumph, knows he cannot do
that. He will do the best he can on every down in every game. He
will try to win and accept his punishment like a man.
"It'll be all right," the S.I.D. says. "You'll be rich. You'll
be a star. You'll walk out of the Downtown Athletic Club with
the most famous trophy awarded to an individual in U.S. sports,
that little running back with the ball tucked under one arm and
with the other arm pushing back the onrushing cares of the world."
"Yeah," the quarterback says sadly. "I can put the trophy in the
back of my white Ford Bronco for the ride to Canada to play pro