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Wednesday, December 12, 2012
"Is Yours a Heisman Christmas?"
"And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins." Matthew 1:21
Johnathan "Johnny Football" Manziel went home with one of the most coveted awards in sports, the Heisman Trophy. The Texas A & M quarterback became the first freshman to win college football's highest individual award. The award is designed to go to "the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity." The Heisman Trophy is awarded by The Heisman Trust, which was formerly known as the New York Downtown Athletic Club (1937-2001). The Heisman Trophy is the shortened name of the award, which is officially called the Heisman Memorial Trophy Award.
So was Heisman a super athlete himself? Well, for a 5'8", 158-pound offensive lineman for Brown and then Penn College, he wasn't that much of a football standout. Jon Heisman was more well known for his coaching stints at Oberlin, Buchtel, Auburn, Clemson, Penn, and others, but most notably, Georgia Tech. As a coach, Heisman was an innovator. He devised the direct snap of the ball from the center to the quarterback, and the pulling guard on certain running plays. Yet, he was mostly known for his trickiness. In 1902, while coaching Clemson, they traveled to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech. He was known as a tough disciplinarian so it was a shock to learn that his team immediately began partying upon their arrival. News spread to the Georgia Tech players and fans that the Clemson team spent the night before the game carousing. Georgia Tech prepared for an easy victory over a hungover team. However, when the game started Clemson roared out of the gate to a 44-5 crushing.
How did that happen? The "team" that everyone had seen drinking and partying the night before really wasn't Heisman's team at all. He had sent his Junior Varsity team to Atlanta to be the drunken decoys, while he sneaked his varsity team in by train.
So how did he get his name on that trophy? It started when he became athletic director of New York's Downtown Athletic Club, after his coaching days at Rice. In 1935, this Club began to award the nation's top college football star. Heisman died of pneumonia the following fall before the trophy was awarded, and the club voted to rename the prize the Heisman Memorial Trophy Award.
How did his stiff-arming image get on the trophy? Well, actually the famous "Heisman pose" is based on Ed Smith, the NYU running back who modeled for the trophy's sculpture in 1934. Smith volunteered when Frank Eliscu just needed a football player to model for the project. In fact, Smith went 48 years totally oblivious to his spot in football history. It wasn't until 1982, when a documentary filmmaker called Smith to interview him about the Heisman, that he recalled that he had modeled for it.
What does all of this have to do with Christmas? Consider these thoughts:
It is possible for the origin of something to be lost in the tradition. Jesus Christ is often lost in the traditions of the season. Matthew 1:21
It is possible to use the name, and yet never know the person.
People use the name Heisman in association with greatness, and yet have no idea who the man was. The same is true with Jesus. His name is used often, but many do not know Him personally. Matthew 1:18-25
It is possible to confuse one person with another.
Many think that Ed Smith's image is Jon Heisman. It is easy to get things confused in our worship of Christ, as well. Consider where you really place Jesus Christ during this time of year. Do we put higher values on other things during this time of year, and then call it Christmas? Maybe our family, friends, or traditions become the focus, and we confuse these with our celebration of the birth of Christ.
As we meditate on these things, it is good to remember that we should enjoy this season of the year, especially with family and friends, but don't just call it Christmas in name only. Really put Christ first!