It's post-season award season and we're all just so thrilled, aren't we? All ye merry press corps line up and elect your favorite players to awards they likely aren't deserved! Celebrate, celebrate! Great tidings of glad joy! Manti Te'o, Manti Te'o, Man-ti Te-oh!
It's pretty easy to quibble over awards. If we're being honest with ourselves, awards are stupid. But also, awards are hard. To reduce them to raw numbers may prove crude. But really then, how else are we to evaluate from a macro perspective? Show me a man who watched every play of every player in college football... and I will show you a liar. The intangible debate is the black hole of which one never recoverth. "He's a leader." "He rallied his troops!" "He took his team to new heights." It's always the code language for "Your guy has more objective proof than my guy, which is why I'm reaching for new descriptors for why my guy is better!"
But here's the thing, some of that, a lot of that, comes from a genuinely earnest place. If you live in South Bend, cover Notre Dame for a living and have a Heisman vote, you are likely to have a bible's worth of reasons for why Manti Te'o should be the Heisman, ranging from personal interactions to practice anecdotes to post-game interviews. From your perspective, no other player had a greater impact on their respective team than Te'o... and there's nothing wrong with that... if we realize it for what it is.
It's a narrow view, for sure, but is it any different than the narrow view of touchdown passes and passing yards and completion percentage? And before you say, "Well yeah! That's performance on the field, man." I can already tell you you are the guy who has dissected "performance on the field" arguments with "look at who he played, man!" arguments. The point is, we all have our keyholes, and only the most self-righteous amongst us can argue their keyhole is any larger or better than anyone else's.
Which makes it really hard for me to understand why anyone, anywhere, who actually watched, would vote Eric Reid an All-American, much less a 1st Team All-American. Don't read me wrong. I love Eric Reid. Eric Reid is the very model of what a modern college athlete should be (Gee I reference this clip a lot). He's a legitimately great student with a legitimately legitimate major. That counts for something. He's a good football player. But an All-American, he is not.
If we are going to talk keyholes, I must first acknowledge that mine may be overly tinted with criticism. I, not unlike any other red-blooded, oxygen-breathing homosapien, carry my biases around in a fanny pack and apply them liberally as I see fit. As such, I came into 2012 expecting Eric Reid to be a game changer. Eric Reid played well in 2011, and he did things like this that just make you think dozens and dozens of more like this-es are coming in 2012. Except nothing like this happened in 2012. He played well in some games, but mostly he played poorly. He definitely didn't play like an All-American. At least not in my keyhole.
And I don't think my opinion is far-fetched or obsolete. Some of my blogger colleagues, who shall remain anonymous, admit as much, privately. I'm not going to go to the trouble of citing each list and exactly where they erred in selecting Reid above other worthy candidates, but can't we all agree that they erred? And if I, an LSU fan, can acknowledge it, there has to be a problem, right? After all, I should be celebrating Reid's accomplishments and furthering the award agenda, touting his greatness, not criticizing the poor choice, right? Shouldn't this piece be about how much of a joke it is that Manti Te'o won the Butkus while Kevin Minter was better? Well yeah, it probably should.
Anyways, back to Eric Reid. I just don't get it. It's not even as if Reid posted some ungodly number in one statistical category while sucking at everything else (we'll call this the Asante Samuel special). There's nothing sensational in his numbers. Nothing that stops to gives you pause. Nothing that makes you say, "All-American." It's not as if LSU fielded a dominant defense in 2012 and Reid was it's fearless leader (i.e. Notre Dame and Te'o). Eric Reid is an all around great guy and good football player, but since when does that make you an All-American?
Realistically Reid meets a few major categories that make him All-American worthy:
1) Play for a major university.
2) Play for a top ranked defense.
3) Have your name somewhere on pre-season award lists.
Meet those three criteria and you're likely to wind up a post-season award winner, regardless of your actual performance. Reid fits the bill. He's tenured, he's successful and he's surrounded by greatness. If you have convincing evidence that Eric Reid should be an All-American, I'd love to hear it. The next case that proves it will be the first, for me.
But really, though, that's just my keyhole, and it's no more right than yours. Your opinion is just as valid as mine, unless your opinion is that Eric Reid is an All-American.For more on LSU football, check out And The Valley Shook, Team Speed Kills and SB Nation's college football page.