Showing posts sorted by relevance for query heisman. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query heisman. Sort by date Show all posts

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Heisman isn't what you think it is.

In a few hours from my writing this post the winner of the 2012 Heisman Memorial Trophy will be announced. The mythology and atmosphere of the prize are perfect for what the Heisman is, a beauty contest, but they mislead the many into believing there is an objective order at work. Kevin Gemmell at has a great article defending the Heisman, and I have to agree with many of his points. However, he stops short of a meaningful understanding of the key difference I believe I have identified. Namely, that we are recognizing someone who has lucked into winning the beauty contest rather than definitively achieved the status of "outstanding college football player in the United States"--the trophy's official meaning.

Here are my main faults with the Heisman:

  • It is ironic that in the most quintessentially team team sport, the most celebrated individual award at the college level is bestowed. We should already be suspect that there is less meaningfulness in the award than conventional wisdom holds.
  • There is certainly an element of Keynes' beauty contest going on in the voting where voters are attempting to vote a ballot they expect others will respect. The easiest way to do this is to vote congruently to the perceived typical ballot. 
  • But at the same time there is rampantly poor voter performance including nearly fraudulent behavior. Leaving candidates off ballots because including them hurts the chances of a voter's preferred candidate undercuts the legitimacy of the award. Voting early is also a problem. The bias in voting cannot be overlooked when evaluating if the process is flawed. 
  • The criteria is unclear and inconsistent. Gemmell holds this as a feature, not a bug. He may be right, but it still argues against the idea that this process produces an objective result. Running with that a little more, we have to recognize that statistics drive this award. And not just any stats, cumulative and simplistic stats. Stats that have little to do with a team winning football games but a lot to do with an individual winning awards. Stats that are highly correlated with winning but that have weak casual or predictive effect on winning. That is a very key distinction. Do you realize that most teams who lead the game at half time go on to win the game? If you find that meaningful, reread the sentence again until it fails to impress you. Coffee is for closers. If stats are your guide to Heisman immortality, they should be stats that indicate contribution more than just participation.
  • The pretentiousness of the prize must also be mentioned. For all the reasons above, we cannot be so pious when considering the prize. 
If we gave a Heisman Trophy in business, Apple would win for its beauty narrowly edging out Wal-Mart who is a finalist based on size. Yet, the goal of business is to make a profit. Both of these firms are very profitable, but Microsoft achieves about 50% more profit per dollar of revenue than does Apple and Exxon Mobil is more profitable than Apple and Wal-Mart combined. The goal of a football team is to win games and the objective of an individual football player should be to contribute to his team's winning. Just as our hypothetical Heisman Trophy for business is recognizing the wrong firms, the real Heisman Trophy is flawed in process such that the recognition fails to be very meaningful.

Truthfully, I am more impressed by awards like Oklahoma's Don Key Award. From SoonerSports:
Oklahoma coaches describe the award as the highest honor an OU football player can receive while playing for the Sooners. The Don Key Award is the only individual award given in Oklahoma football. It goes to the player who best exemplifies the many superior qualities of Key, both on the field and in the classroom.
That award is subjective, but it is limited to the subjectivity of a highly informed coaching staff. It goes to the player or players who contribute to the team and achieve individual success almost as a byproduct.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The State of Sooner Football

About nine months ago I began writing this post in rough form following a pair of painful and disappointing losses to begin the 2016 Sooner football season. I refined it a bit about midway through the season, but as prospects were improving, I put it back on the shelf not wanting to post something that seemed too critical during a season-comeback effort. The post is more about the long run trend than the short run noise (good or bad). With today's news it seems appropriate to consider the thought experiment...

Bob Stoops has chosen to retire. His contributions to OU have been tremendous. I am and always have been a very strong fan and supporter of Stoops--at times perhaps an apologist. I will miss him being on my team's sideline. He reawakened The Monster. He was an innovator. On the field and off the field he pursued and achieved excellence. Looking back at his tenure it is easy to pine for what could have been. But the fair reflection would be to consider that it is only because of what did happen are we as fans in a position to regret what could have been--his leadership brought OU to such heights that we could see mountain tops yet to climb. [sappy but true]

Here is the post I originally started last football season; the strong finish to the 2016 season, sadly Bob Stoops last, caused me to revise my priors somewhat...

Starting with the premise that OU's expectations of championship-level football have not been met during the last 8 years (2009-2016); what is the explanation? 

Make no mistake about it, the past 8 years have been at a VERY high level of success--what 95% of teams would consider completely satisfying and what >50% of teams could never dream of: 
  • 81-24 overall record--77%.
  • 5-3 bowl record (bowl game every year including 4 major bowls).
  • 1 national championship competed for (lost to Clemson in semifinals).
  • 4 conference titles; competitive (my view) 5 of 8 years (50%!!! but against a debilitated league).
  • Record breaking performances by both the team and individuals including several players competing for top national awards--the Heisman among them. (My views on the Heisman reflect why this is an after thought in this list.)
Yet the prior 10 years were stronger: 
  • 109-24 overall record--82%.
  • 4-6 bowl record (bowl game every year including 7 major bowls).
  • 4 national championships competed for (won against Florida St.; lost to LSU, USC, and Florida).
  • 6 conference titles; competitive 9 of 10 years (60%!!! against a very tough league)
  • Even more record breaking performances and quite a few more awards won including two Heismans, FWIW.
The records are both great and quite close except for the nuance that OU's contention for titles (national and conference) was much stronger. 

So, given the premise, I can think of three possibilities and two alternatives:

1. The Sooners have simply been unlucky the past 8 years.

2. They were lucky in the beginning of the Stoops era (the first 10 years before the last 8 years) and the ability to reach OU's lofty expectations simply was never there.
3. They were up to fulfilling expectations at the beginning of the Stoops era but now they have faded in capabilities (the game as passed them by).

Alternatively we could say:

4. The premise is bad because they actually have been competing at a championship level--just less completely as might be possible/desired (i.e., too few championships achieved).

5. The expectation was faulty (i.e., they shouldn't expect to compete at a championship level).

I hope for 1, fear 2, and slightly suspect 3, but I highly suspect 4 and strongly reject 5. That puts me in possibility 1 assuming the premise and alternative 4 if I can question it.

Assuming the premise, my guess is about 70% of all Sooner fans fall into possibility 1, about 10% fall into 2, and about 20% fall into 3. But these answers would have been significantly different if looked at right after the loss to Ohio State and a 1-2 start to the 2016 season.
Allowing for the alternatives, I would then guess that the assignment of Sooner fans would be about like this:

% of Fans

The fans that don't jump from possibility 1 to possibility 4 once we allow the questioning of the premise probably have unrealistic expectations--they think their team should ALWAYS win. I am tempted to dismiss these folks as fans who think the winning team "just wanted it more". I am tempted to dismiss fans who jump to possibility 5 (presumably from possibilities 2 or 3) as fans who would be happier rooting for a much lesser team so as to increase the emotional gain from a win and decrease the emotional pain of a loss (i.e., no true Sooners).

All fans will make their own evaluations over the course of the Lincoln Riley era, though, probably not with the formality I bring to the matter. And the measure will be how does that era match up to all 18 amazing years under Stoops. I wish Bob the best and thank him for the happiness he brought me as a fan.

I wish Lincoln luck. I fully expect that he has what it takes to keep the Sooners' status as a contender, but satisfying The Monster takes more than ability. It takes luck.

Boomer Sooner!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Epilogue: The State of Sooner Football

Seven months ago to the day a new era in the storied history of Sooner football began. I posted about it here. This first season has ended. Here are my impressions.

By all measure and accounts it was truly magical. But it came up just short of being Sooner Magic; although, this was as close an example as there can be.
Obviously, the ultimate outcome is unfortunate. But time will heal the still fresh wounds (wounds that we receive a bit of salt tomorrow evening as I watch Georgia in OU's stead battle Alabama for the national title).

I would rate the season as a short-term failure (we had every right to believe we would win it all but we did not) but a long-term strong success (we won a conference championship, competed very well for a national championship, won a Heisman trophy among others, and made numerous, forever-memorable moments to add to the Sooner legacy).

My prior post made mention of a needed ingredient to achieve the level of success Sooner football demands: luck. The Sooners this year did not have much luck. Balls did not bounce their way either proverbially or literally. I wouldn't say they were unlucky, but they didn't get the breaks going their way either. Yet, they still achieved all that they did. Quite impressive.

Maybe it was Sooner Magic, but it a more subtle way. Baker Mayfield is the embodiment of Sooner Magic. He overcame repeated doubt; he had the style, swagger, and toughness of The Boz; and in the end he has the resume few will ever dream of. No one will ever again label him a pretender.

A fabulous season, it was all done too soon.