Sunday, December 15, 2013

Heroes in the Fall

This past weekend was the Heisman Trophy Ceremony. It is where a new champion in the realm of collegiate sports is crowned. From the time these young men can walk, they dream of this moment. Other starry-eyed lads playing Pop Warner around the nation idolize these young men, punting and passing, hoping to join them on the stage someday. The characteristics one must display when winning the Heisman are athletics, scholarship, and character comes into consideration. Yes, the Heisman is a role model.
This year’s Heisman had the foreboding shadow of Jameis Winston’s recent rape allegation. Mr. Winston says the lippy blonde Florida State University Student was a ready to go party/sex machine. She alleges that she was bruised, sick, and vomiting after the incident. A friend of mine who has worked for ESPN admitted to me that Jameis, who’s name kinda rhymes with jobless, was hard to watch and as a die hard football fan he skipped this year. The buck doesn’t stop there. Mr. Winston’s roommate said he saw the sex happening. Yes, the girl apparently was pleasing Jameis’s little Jimmy. And then they proceeded to basically have wild animal sex. The roommate didn’t make himself look any better by saying he barged in and asked if he could join. And then he left and returned asking if he could video the proceedings. I guess I have to give him credit. He was honest about the fact he was utterly creepy and spilled his guts to ESPN. Then Jameis Winston’s father gave some asinine statement about how the truth would come out and made some remark about her being a white woman. Winston, Son, and Associate did everything to perpetuate every negative black ethnic stereotype there was with their behavior. The only thing they did correctly was be party to this offense in 2013, not 1963.
What was more disgusting was Jameis’s poorly articulated speech about “the process” and “the challenges” he had been through. Note: From the way he spoke it was obvious when they described him as a scholar/athlete, they were using the term scholar loosely. Yes, you chose to have sex with someone against their consent, Sir. For the record, if he was not a football star these charges would not have magically disappeared. Nonetheless, this woman is not backing down. She and her lawyers are challenging the way the investigation was coincidentally botched. Maybe these charges won’t stick but the post man always rings twice. Ask OJ. (Ironically another poor role model and past winner). 
"Yo, da bitch said ya. Da shorty be creepin and makin stuff up."

During Heisman weekend we all look for a hero though. The hero doesn’t always have to be standing on the stage with the past winners or have to be currently in the NFL. The hero can be someone who is absent. Someone who’s picture hangs on the stage, amongst the rest of the greats. We can’t remember any and all winners because of the number of the years the award was given. However, one very special winner comes to mind. And this winner would shame Jameis Winston and his entitled and arrogant predatory behavior in his tracks. His name is Ernie Davis.
Ernie Davis aka The Elmira Express was a member of the Syracuse Orangemen. With a movie about his life story, this young man was the first black winner of the coveted Heisman Trophy. Life wasn’t easy for Mr. Davis. He was raised the first half of his life by his grandparents in Uniontown, PA in the cradle where football greats are made. The second, he was raised by his mother in Elmira, NY. Ernie Davis lost his father in an accident before he was born and never met the man. Yes, he was blessed with tremendous speed and athletic ability. In his Pop Warner Days Mr. Davis got lots of write ups in local papers thus earning the nickname The Elmira Express for his speed. Despite the attention his athletic ability got him, he never developed an arrogant attitude or used his status to justify bully behavior.
If anything, he did the opposite. There was a tale of a newbie to the team who couldn't put his pads on right. The older kids made fun of him. Ernie walked over and helped the young man. The taunting from the teammates stopped. Another time a fellow teammate was picking on a younger classman beating him up. In a rare display of anger, Ernie "whooped his ass" as the kids would say. The upperclassman never bullied anyone again. Even during his days in Pop Warner when he towered over the kids, and some of his runtier counterparts would try to tackle him, he never crushed them. Instead, those around him say he simply picked them up and dangled them in the air until the whistle was blown. Then he would put them down and the game would continue. While he was a warrior on the field, he was also a gentle giant with a good heart who wouldn't squash someone who had no chance of winning in a fight. In an era where bullying is an issue, perhaps his story should be resurrected for that reason alone.
 Moreover, Ernie Davis never complained no matter what. A multi-sport athlete in high school, he broke his wrist playing football before basketball season started. Ernie Davis didn’t complain. He played his first game with his arm in a cast. Born under the sign Saggatarius, like his other astrological brothers and sisters he didn’t let anything slow him down. Whether it was an opponent on the field, an injury off, or the color of his skin in a time where it was a dividing factor he soldiered on beating the odds.
College saw Ernie Davis as a star athlete. While sports were his ticket, according to those that knew him, he also took his studying seriously as well. Sometimes Mr. Davis was taunted by white fans from opposing teams for his skill. During the Cotton Bowl Awards Ceremony, he and his black teammates were told they could accept their awards but they had to leave because it was a white’s only club. Mr. Davis didn’t let these factors affect him as a player let alone person. A lot of people would crack and be bitter. It seems he was just the opposite, it only made him want to get even better, more undeniable.

Jameis Winston, this a true sports hero, not that you will ever be one...

In 1961, Ernie Davis did his part for Civil Rights by winning the Heisman Trophy. Impressed, President Kennedy sent him a telegram. Of course, his schedule filled with speaking engagements, busying the young man as he tried to complete his school work in order to graduate. Being the noteworthy scholar/athlete of his class, Ernie Davis led the Syracuse University Graduation Parade as martial in 1962. Of course he was also set to play for the Cleveland Browns. During this time Davis thought his schedule was wearing him out. As he began training camp the tired spells got even worse. That is when it was discovered Ernie Davis had leukemia.
During this time period it was a death sentence. Most people threw in the towel and relaxed at home to die comfortably. Not Ernie Davis. While he was unable to play, he stayed in shape playing recreational basketball to keep fit in case he beat the leukemia. He maintained a good diet and a positive outlook. When Ernie Davis was told he had months to live, he shrugged it off and kept going. In an editorial he  wrote for The Cleveland Post called I’m Not Unlucky, Ernie Davis explained he didn’t want the pity of others. Rather, he had accomplished more than many people had in their life, and that made him grateful. He also expressed gratitude for the skill he was given in athletics to begin with. While yes, he didn’t like the fact he couldn’t play football, he didn’t feel sad. Rather, he was more upset that his roommates who were on the team were gone and he was left to his own devices, bored. He knew he lived a full and exciting life. Despite the lump he was given, he continued to express gratitude and intended to soldier on. Injuries, beefy opponents, and racism had no defeated him. Ernie Davis felt he could in fact take leukemia.
Sadly this would not be the case. While he fought until the end, Ernie Davis would lose to leukemia on May 18, 1963. He was 23 years old. Was he perfect? No, but no one is. What would he have been like in the NFL? I don’t know. Would he have been involved in some scandal had he lived? That is a question we cannot answer. However, we do know that he was the true epitome of a role model. Ernie Davis worked hard, never gave up, and worked hard in both the classroom and the field. He represented both his race in a turbulent time and his school with complete class and dignity. Ernie Davis never the unfairness the world tossed at him kill his spirit either. Ernie Davis in the long run is not just a hero to black people, but anyone from any walk of life regardless of the color of their skin. He shows that a positive attitude is the core of what makes someone a champion, and with one you are hard to defeat. 
On the other hand, Jarmeis Winston was just a moron who won a trophy. He is someone who has been gifted with tremendous ability, and will unfortunately probably find a way to squander it. Truth be told, Piscasso was a great painter but a terrible human being. Judy Garland had a great voice but mother of the year she was not. We are all human. We cannot have everything. Just because someone has some gifts does not mean we should put them on a pedestal.
But there are those who are the complete package, and often times they are overlooked by their counterparts who’s egomania and poor decision making ability bring the cloud of suspicion and scandal wherever they go. Jameis Winston almost ruined Heisman Weekend but didn’t succeed. There are still heroes in the fabric of this experience. When you watch the replay of the broadcast, look at the portraits of the past winners. There is a very clean cut, young black man on the wall. He’s one of them. And if you look even more closely, I am sure there are others in that circle joining him. Those who played hard on the field, studied tirelessly, and lived well the rest of the time. Ernie Davis and those like him are the ones we should celebrate during Heisman Weekend, not Jameis Winston

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