Meanwhile, on the Mean Sports Pages

The political and economic and cultural news is full of scary developments lately, and the weather around here is damned cold, but on Monday we took a day off from all that to find some warmth in a good news story from the sports pages. The University of Oklahoma Sooners’ quarterback Kyler Murray won the Heisman Trophy for college football’s most outstanding player on Saturday, which we are obliged by family tradition to be happy about, and we were further gladdened to see that the young man is hanging up his football helmet and will instead pursue a career in professional baseball.
This was the second consecutive year that a Sooner won college football’s most prestigious individual honor, the first such back-to-back for any school since the 1945 and ’46 seasons, if you don’t count the Heisman that was taken back for reasons of corrupt rule-breaking from the first of two consecutive University of Southern California players in the 2005 and ’06 seasons, and it’s OU’s sixth Heisman overall, which is second only to those damned Fightin’ Irish of Notre Dame. The Sooners have also won seven national championships, 41 championships in the high-level Big Six and Big Eight and Big XII conferences, and Murray’s Heisman further burnishes the Sooners’ reputation as one of America’s greatest sporting enterprises. God help us, we can’t help but be glad about that.
We grew up in Kansas and like to think ourselves true-blue Bleeding Kansas sorts of Kansans, but all our forbears were Okies from the territorial days and thus we grew up on Sooner football. Our beloved Pop attended OU back during the Bud Wilkinson days, when they set a still-standing win streak record on their way to three national championships during his four years of matriculation, and although he’s a very reserved and cerebral sort of fellow who takes only the usual red-blooded American male’s interest in most of the sporting scene he’s always been somewhat fanatical about Sooner football. In our youth the University of Kansas Jayhawks and Kansas State University Wildcats and Wichita State University Wheatshockers were all infamously bad at football, and although each had some serious bragging rights about basketball we always went with the extended family’s winner through the pigskin season. Along the way we witnessed some memorably extraordinary athletic feats and rousing victories and heart-breaking losses by the Sooners, and we’re grateful for such family traditions.
Even so, we’re glad to see this young Murray fellow is hanging up his football helmet and pursuing a career in baseball. For the past few football seasons we’ve followed the fortunes of the Sooners and the National Football League’s Kansas City Chiefs, both of which are championship contenders this seasons, but we haven’t been able watch a single down of it. Football’s such a violent game that it leaves an alarming number of its players with debilitating and life-shortening injuries, too many of its players are violent sorts of people such as the fellow that the Chiefs recently kicked off the team for pushing down and kicking a woman, and that takes a lot of fun out of the game for us.
This young Murray fellow is apparently one of those rarely gifted athletes with both the God-given athletic ability and hard-earned-on-his-own talents to play at least two games at the highest level of competition, and although our slow and awkward and wheezy selves can only imagine what that’s like we’re pretty sure he’s right to choose baseball. To its most gifted players baseball offers a longer and more lucrative career than football, and although it entails certain persistent aches and pains they’re far less likely to be debilitating or life-shortening than those from several other sports. Baseball’s a more cerebral and beautiful sport than football, too, and offers such a talented athlete as this Murray fellow at least as much glory on the baseball diamond as he might find on any football gridiron.
The previous Sooner Heisman trophy winner was Baker Mayfield, an arguably even better quarterback who is currently a contender for the National Football League’s rookie of the year award. As the top pick to the last place team in the NFL draft, Baker and his Cleveland Browns have a mediocre record of five wins and seven losses and a tie, but that’s four more wins than the franchise had in the previous three years, and with the NFL’s weird play-off system they’re still in the hunt for a very long-shot championship, so that’s more bragging rights for the Sooners. We wish this Mayfield fellow the best, by which mean we mean hope he has a long career and somehow enjoys his millions without a brain injury.
The season of Kansas’ beautiful game of basketball is well under way, with the Wildcats looking mediocre and the ‘Shockers looking worse and those snooty Jayhawks looking like championship contenders, although we happily note our beloved Wichita Heights High School Falcons are currently leading the City League. Come spring we won’t have any baseball pro baseball around here, as those stupid city father have torn down the venerable old Lawrence-Dumont stadium and won’t have a new up the net summer when they promise a shiny new affiliated Triple-A club to replace lovable Wichita Wingnuts, and until then we won’t mach to cheer about.. Meanwhile the political and economic and cultural news seems unpleasant, and we’ll take our vicarious victories wherever we can, so godspeed to this young Kyler Murray fellow.

Vulgar and Offensive

We had hoped to take a break from the decline and fall of western civilization over the weekend by immersing ourselves in college football, but of course it proved futile. The top-ranked team in the country was playing without its Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, who had been suspended for the game due to “vulgar and offensive behavior,” and the frequent televised shots of the sidelined player cheering on his eligible teammates only reminded us of the sorry state of our culture.
“Vulgar and offensive behavior” isn’t quite so troubling as the domestic battery and child abuse scandals that have lately bedeviled the professional game, but it is so far more common that we didn’t need the reminder. Vulgarity and offensiveness are so commonplace, in fact, that instead of concerning passing and rushing and defensive statistics we found ourselves on the internet trying to find out just how much more vulgar and offensive than the prevailing standards a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback must be to get benched in a big game. The more polite media were vague, explaining only that the quarterback had shouted an “internet meme” at a group of women in a public square, but the “social media” reporting the accounts of the twittering students within earshot were more explicit. We’ll spare you the ugly verbatim details, but suffice to say that what he was shouting at women he did not know in a public square was pretty darned vulgar and offensive.
The offending Heisman Trophy winner, who won the prestigious award last year despite a credible accusation of rape by a fellow student, might well have had no idea that he was shouting something that would keep him out of a big game. It’s an “internet meme,” after all, and not significantly different from what you might hear on the latest pop hit or in a popular motion picture or see on the back of the t-shirt in front of you at the grocery store check-out line. Absent any connection to the social standards that prevailed just a generation ago, which a college-aged person of the moment is likely unaware of, it might have even struck him as a witty and convivial remark.
Which is all the more reason that we are heartened a football-crazed institution would risk a shot a national championship by sidelining the player. Even without the star player the team was still favored by more than a touchdown, which might well have informed the university’s decision, but it was still a brave stand on behalf of old-fashioned decency. As it turned out the inexperienced substitute played just well enough to send his team in overtime, where the opposing coach’s bone-headed call on a fourth-and-inches play secured a victory, but one can hope that the close call made an impression on the vulgar and offensive quarterback and his equally vulgar and offensive fans.

— Bud Norman