Remember the days of Little League. The days where sunflower seeds were our currency. The days where you were only cool if you wore high socks. The days where we spent as much time perfecting the bend of our cap as we did our ability on the field. But with all that, there was something that always bothered me: All Stars.
It wasn’t the fact that I should have made the team. I was the Chone Figgins of my league when it came to batting. I lived at the bottom of the order for years and never really saw any improvement. I made my bread in the field, though. Third base. Hot corner. Ever heard of it? But that is beside the point. Every year there would be an all star team compiled of the best players in the league, and for the most part this was true. But every year I could not help but notice that almost every coach’s son made the team. Even the ones that just flat out sucked. I was always bothered by this, and was happy to see that go as I left Little League in fifth grade and went on to bigger and better things (not really).
On Wednesday morning I woke up and heard some news; news that could not help but remind me of those tainted all star teams of Little League. How outside forces and not on-field production and skill affected the selection. This news I speak of is the 2012 Mackey Award, handed out each season in college football to the best TE in the country.
Let’s do a quick exercise. I am going to list three candidates’ stat lines, without divulging their names or team, and you decide for yourself who should have won:
Player A: 66 receptions, 837 yards, 6 touchdowns
Player B: 66 receptions, 791 yards, 6 touchdowns
Player C: 44 receptions, 624 yards, 4 touchdowns
I think we would all agree that Player A had the best year, with Player B a close second, and Player C a fair distance behind the two (Here’s where my Little League analogy begins to make sense, I promise).
Player C, Tyler Eifert, won the Mackey award Wedenseday over Zach Ertz (Player A, Stanford) and Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Player B, Washington) solely because he is a member of the #1 ranked Fighting Irish of Notre Dame…Just like the inept coaches son’s of Little League past who made those all star teams.
Now by all means, I’m not saying Tyler Eifert is “inept” at tight end. He’s actually a very good tight end. But when it comes down to it, he ranked a mere sixth in the nation in receiving yards amongst tight ends, whereas the other two finalists were the top two.
I also want to make sure we know that I am not advocating as a Husky fan for ASJ in this race either. I believe Zach Ertz should have won this award. But If you’re telling me that Tyler Eifert was the best TE in the country, than you don’t know what you’re talking about.
Now some may say that blocking ability needs to be accounted for in this award too, which I can easily understand. But as far as I’m concerned, Seferian-Jenkins and Ertz are fine blockers, all while out gaining Eifert by roughly 200 yards, 22 receptions, and 2 touchdowns. Shouldn’t even be a contest. Another quick stat, thanks to the fine work of my colleague Mr. Boyd: 36 of Zach Ertz’s 66 receptions came against ranked teams. That means slightly over half of his receptions came in high pressure games. Eifert on the other hand, only had 8 receptions against ranked opponents, or in other words only 18% of his catches came against tough competition. Do you see a trend at all? Ertz, and even ASJ for that matter, blow Eifert out of every meaningful statistical category at their position. So why did Eifert win the Mackey then? Simple. Notre Dame. They are the best team in the country.
When it comes to individual awards in not only college football, but sports in general, voters need to remember that the award is an “individual” award for a reason. We see it all across sports today and it is a problem that needs to be fixed.
To stir the pot even more, take this year’s Heisman race for example. In my opinion, Johnny Manziel is the clear cut winner, but Manti Te’o is still hanging around. I understand how great he has been defensively this season, especially while dealing with the horrors he has had to go through off the gridiron with the loss of his grandmother and girlfriend. I will be one of the first to commend him on his response to those tragedies. But if he wins the Heisman, it will be aided by those off field incidents and the fact he plays for the number one team in the country, not what he individually accomplished on the field itself.
Voters need to snap back to reality and realize that individual awards are handed out based on individual performances that only occur upon the field of play, not by their team’s success and other outlying circumstances.