No one ever accused Jason White of not being a competitor. No one said Sam Bradford didn’t try hard, want to win or was a bad leader.
Both had plenty of “heat of the moment” situations. Neither acted on them in a manner that required a post-game statement.
Both also won the Heisman Trophy.
Baker Mayfield, the fine Oklahoma quarterback, who has nearly as many public apologies (three) as interceptions (five) this season, has had his share of moments, too, yet his moments are followed by a “Sorry.”
Leadership comes in all forms. Mayfield’s is no better or worse than any other successful style, and what makes Mayfield successful is also a weakness. So, while he receives praise, rightfully so for his competitive spirit, furious, and sometimes imaginary vengeance-fueled emotion, he also seems to get a free pass when this same behavior turns into a negative. Even after he admits to wrongdoing.
Why is this happening? Why are so many so quick to defend a guy who has admitted his string of bad decisions are “not who he is?” Simple, he plays for “us,” not them. Dig no deeper. No nuance is necessary. The examples of hypocrisy in sports (and political) fandom is a list longer than a phone call from mom. What’s allowed for me, isn’t for you. What goes on your team is reprehensible. What goes on my team is excusable. Check Twitter. You’ll see it. Facebook has thrived off of this kind of division.
Mayfield’s latest episode came Saturday against classless Kansas. You saw it, and most defended it, with standard excuse-making like, “Well, they started it,” or “Everyone does it,” or even, “It’s an emotional game, you snowflake, and if you’ve played, well you would know.”
But Bradford played the game. So did White. They took cheap shots. They made the biggest plays. So do countless others who are “competitive,” Not everyone has to say sorry afterward. Of course there are terrible sports out there. Yes, Draymond Green is a bad guy and a cheap shot maestro, but no, no one, not around these parts anyway, is lining up to say Green was just reacting, or was taunted, or was “just in the heat of battle.” The reason for that is because Green doesn’t play for your favorite team. Mayfield does.
The Kansas players refused Mayfield’s handshakes to start the game. Kansas players repeatedly took shots at Mayfield. Even a KU coach was caught on camera embarrassing himself with a lewd gesture. Sad, really. And if Mayfield hadn’t retaliated with his own X-rated charade showing, we’d be talking about how those guys up there in Lawrence are just the worst, and would be right to do so.
Perhaps if this was an isolated incident, Mayfield would get more of a free pass. But Mayfield has a track record, taunting everyone from Gary Patterson of TCU to Texas inside the Cotton Bowl. He’s shushed crowds, offered a spanking, “planted” a flag, cussed and grabbed himself. That’s a lot. Enough that’s it become hard to defend him.
And he’s backed it up. Easily the best player in college football this season. Maybe the best quarterback in Oklahoma history, and is the most-recent sports example of “yeah-butting” bad decisions made by elite players.
Mayfield will win the Heisman. He should. And he’s led the Sooners to one playoff berth, two Big 12 titles with another playoff spot and Big 12 title within reach. Give him full credit for a long list of deserved honors. But just because he’s been great, doesn’t mean he should be defended at all costs.