Pride Cometh: Bush Forgets Heismans Past

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Pride Cometh: Bush Forgets Heismans Past
IconAs is usual for my Friday nights, I'm watching the Twins on FSN. Sometimes, I might get crazy and watch an episode of "House." In any event, I normally don't pay much attention to whether or not there are commercials on, as I get hit in the head a lot so it's easy for me to just kind of zone out. But last Friday there was some good boxing on, so I'm flicking back and forth between FSN and ESPN. In retrospect, I should have kept it on FSN and spared myself from one commercial in particular.
Like many Americans who don't watch draft day coverage, I didn't know what Reggie Bush looked like without a football helmet on, so at first I didn't get the joke. Let me set up the commercial for those of you that haven't seen it—a group of guys are sitting around, preparing for a fantasy football draft. One man (Bush) is sitting on the couch looking at his cell phone when another man kneels by him saying that he is going to select Kansas City Chiefs running back Larry Johnson with the first pick of the draft. Disgusted, Bush looks at him and mopes that as the Heisman Trophy winner he should get selected in his own fantasy league. When the friend changes his mind and announces that he is taking Bush first, Bush quickly announces that he will take Larry Johnson, mocking his friend for not making a better pick.
At first I laughed, and then I thought about it: what's Bush trying to say? I know he didn't write the commercial and I'm sure that it's just another in a long list of checks that he has been and will be signing this year, but there is more to it. I can't seem to remember rookies making those kinds of statements before. Who's to say that Bush will even make that many appearances this season? (That made me chuckle—I think that there are high school running backs that could start at running back for New Orleans.) Did Bush ever think that he might be setting himself up for more than he can handle? Or has all the media adulation convinced him that he is someone that he has yet to become? In the book Brave New World by Aldous Huxley there is a statement that "62,400 repetitions make one fact." I'd say that the sporting community has well exceeded that number in telling Bush how great he is. It's the weirdest thing, but the name "Ryan Leaf" keeps coming to mind. For some reason, that name feels like it should mean something. Oh yeah, now I remember...wait, nope, forgot it again.

Why have we become so obsessed with pinning our hopes for the future to an unproven athlete? How many football players have risen to greatness from the fifth round of the draft or lower? How many first-rounders have failed? How many Heisman Trophy winners couldn't make it in the pros? It would be easier to name the ones that did make it, or at least the ones that are still in the public eye that adored them so much in college.

For this article, I did more research than I like to do, ever. The list of recent Heisman Trophy winners reads a lot like a list of actors that were famous in the early 70's—I only recognize a couple and few seem to still get steady work. Here it is:

— 1990 - Ty Detmer: The oldest winner still in the league. He is currently with the Atlanta Falcons, though he hasn't actually played in a game since 2001.

— 1991 - Desmond Howard: Proved himself a lethal kick returner, as well as earned a Super Bowl MVP award.

— 1992 - Gino Torretta: (Who?) Played 2 professional games in 3 years.

— 1993 - Charlie Ward: In a show of either ingratitude or incredible foresight, currently plays for the NBA's Houston Rockets.

— 1994 - Rashaan Salaam: Had a great rookie year at running back, but only lasted 2 more years.

— 1995 - Eddie George: Became a 3 time Pro-Bowler and long time starting running back. He can definitely be considered a success.

— 1996 - Danny Wuerffel: Played 6 years (25 games, 10 starts) with 12 TDs and 22 INTs; not so good.

— 1997 - Charles Woodson: Has played 9 NFL seasons and can be considered a very formidable defensive back.

— 1998 - Ricky Williams: Has accumulated 7,079 rushing yards and 1,899 receiving yards, but this crazy kid just can't seem to stop "expanding" his views and munching on Funyuns.

— 1999 - Ron Dayne: 7 years in the NFL, but only 14 starts. I guess being the all-time NCAA rusher doesn't mean much to professional D-linemen.

— 2000 - Chris Weinke: Started all 15 games he played in 2001; he's only started 1 out of 6 games since.

— 2001 - Eric Crouch: Has retired twice, was most recently cut by the Packers and is trying out as a safety with the Chiefs. He hasn't played in any games. I didn't know any of this, but I love knowing it now.

— 2002 - Carson Palmer: Has started all 29 games he has played in. He also posted a 101 QB rating last year. As it stands, he's the best-looking Heisman winner still out there that isn't most likely a drug mule.

— 2003 - Jason White: Well, I don't know. I wasn't looking real hard, but I couldn't find anything after he decided to return to the Sooners for one more season. Then I lost interest.

— 2004 - Matt Leinart: Elected to stay with USC for his senior year. Then he lost the National Championship and dropped his 2006 draft status to 10th.

— 2005 - Reggie Bush: To be determined. For now we just have commercials to convince us of how good he will be.
Remember, these are just the Heisman winners, not necessarily first overall draft picks. Not to mention the hundred or so others that followed them down the line. How many of them failed miserably? How many will be Hall of Famers? How are we to know?  
The fact is that no one can predict how Bush or Vince Young or Mario Williams will fare—all we can do is mentor them and hope for the best. Of course when they do succeed it was destiny, right? They're just that good. It had nothing to do with the coaches or teammates; cream always rises to the top. All the ones that didn't make it must have been no good, right? College athletics must not have many real athletes, right?
I'm not sure to whom I should address my parting advice (Bush? ESPN? Commercial writers in general?), so let's leave this as advice in general. By taking an incredibly literal and humorless interpretation of one commercial, I have come to a conclusion: this commercial should have been saved for next year when maybe, just maybe, Bush will have some stats to back up why anyone should take him in a fantasy football draft, or why he should even play at all. Being a Heisman Trophy winner isn't enough. After all, the higher the pedestal, the longer the fall.

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