Monday, December 10, 2012

The Week in Review: Shemp for Heisman

I was depleted by a cold for most of last week. The bugger moved into my chest quite uninvited, and forced me to serve it an eviction notice (i.e. antibiotics). I was unable to go to class or work for a few days, but I made the best of the time by getting a few papers finished and a few others furthered. Thankfully, I'm nearly back to full strength now, just in time for The Big Push in this last week of the semester.

The school hosted an end-of-the-semester/Christmas party for the students and staff last Friday. It was preceded by a vigil Mass for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. They served delicious foods of many varieties and in large quantities and a good time seemed to have been had by all. One thing I learned during this evening: if a Polish Dominican says he doesn't know how to play poker but wants to sit in, don't believe him; pretty soon, every chip will be in front of him.

The evening was also an opportunity to express our thanks to our departing registrar, Teresa Olson, whose sterling work and solid presence will be missed.

I also attended a co-worker’s 50th birthday party this weekend–that is, it was a party for his 50th birthday; I don't know how many total birthday parties he's had in his life, though it may be close to 50, and I doubt that this was the 50th party for him this year. Anyway, it was a pleasant time in which I got to try some homemade wine produced by a 5-foot tall Italian immigrant from Genoa (really good), and engage in a Three Stooges-oriented discussion on the merits of Shemp and the demerits of Joe Besser. Good times.

The Heisman Trophy winner was announced this last Saturday, and sadly for us Notre Dame fans, Manti Teo did not win, but rather Texas A&M sophomore quarterback Johnny "Football" Manziel. Yes, sophomore Johnny Football. He's not a freshman. He'd been participating in college football for a year prior to this one, though not playing in games. It's misleading to tout him as "the first freshman to win the Heisman." Certainly he's the first redshirt freshman, and that's impressive enough, so there's no need to puff up his accomplishments with inaccuracies. Johnny had a great year, and gave a great acceptance speech. I have nothing against him. I am annoyed at the talking heads in the sports media, though, because the reasons they gave for Johnny winning over Manti, mostly centering on why it's hard to evaluate a defensive player's impact, were all just plain silly. This provides us an excellent opportunity to apply the fruits of philosophical study to real-life problems. Observe (note: these are actual quotes I heard repeated multiple times during the lead-up to the trophy presentation on ESPN Radio):

--"Teo plays as part of a unit." I may not be a football expert, but I'm pretty sure that quarterbacks play as part of a unit, too. Those offensive lineman, backs, and receivers would seem to have an awful lot to do with moving the ball down the field.
-- "If Notre Dame hadn't gone 12-0, Teo wouldn't even be in this discussion." But they did go 12-0, precisely because of the leadership and outstanding play of their senior linebacker. Why does Notre Dame's undefeated record count against Teo instead of for him?
-- "Johnny Manziel had that moment on the big stage against Alabama." This is the same argument as above, only reversed: The Teo partisan could just as easily reply, "If Texas A&M hadn't beaten Alabama, Johnny Manziel wouldn't even be in this discussion." Why does Johnny Manziel get more Heisman credit for one win than Manti Teo gets for 12 wins? Why does Johnny Manziel get credit for beating the top-ranked team, but Teo is marked down for being ON the top-ranked team?
-- "You just can't evaluate a defensive player in the same way." Then, as Mel Kiper, Jr. (and virtually every ND fan on my Facebook newsfeed) has said, call it the Offensive Player of the Year and be done with it. Drop the pretense that a defensive player has a shot at this award if there's no way to evaluate one. By the way, why is it that coaches, scouts, and sports writers have no trouble calling a defensive player the best in the country except at Heisman time?

I've spoken my part. I hope Johnny Football enjoys polishing his trophy while he watches Notre Dame beat Alabama for the national championship in a few weeks.

Ladies and gents, this is the final week of the semester. I have a short paper to finish, a take-home exam to polish up, and my big research paper to write. I've done all of the research and outlining and such (in other words, about 3/4 of the work); now all that's left is composition. Pray for me and my classmates that we make it through this week with our sanity intact. (And I will pray for you, as I know that a number of my readers are students as well.) St. Thomas Aquinas, patron of students, pray for us!

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