Two seasons ago, Baker Mayfield came out of the south tunnel at the Cotton Bowl, ran the length of the field proudly displaying a classic, “Horns Down” hand gesture before stopping in the endzone to kneel in prayer.
It got him some attention.
Mayfield tweeted at an Oklahoma State commit after being accused of having “Twitter Fingers,” and wasn’t exactly complimentary about Clemson after watching the Russell Bowl debacle, and then again after losing to the Tigers in the College Football Playoffs during the 2015 season.
Those moves also got him some publicity and a lot of attention.
Mayfield is brash, not shy, and extremely talented. The numbers show it. He was also voted the Big 12’s “best” trash talker in a recent poll taken of players in the league by Dallasnews.com.
So when Mayfield grabbed an over-sized OU flag after his Sooners won 31-16 at Ohio State Saturday night, thanks in large part to his near-flawless performance, and “planted” it in the middle of the giant Horseshoe, no one should be surprised that Mayfield received a good deal of attention from that, too.
Baker Mayfield is just being himself. He didn’t break character. Donald Trump didn’t start offering people second chances on “The Apprentice.” No, Trump was curt and rude and fired folks. That’s what he did.
And Mayfield craves the attention, too. That’s who he is.
Chances are if Texas were to win a road game against Ohio State and the Texas QB put on dramatics at the 50-yard line, punctuated with a flag and a yell, folks around here would be pretty upset. Probably right to be, too. And, sure Ohio State sang loudly and proudly, in the middle of OU’s stadium a season ago, so Mayfield’s motivation was pretty transparent.
Perhaps, well, forget “perhaps” – it is a disrespectful gesture by Mayfield, but it’s seen as acceptable, for the most part, because he’s the quarterback for a local team. Patrick Beverley’s style would be applauded if he played for the Thunder and Mayfield would be roundly booed if he played for the Longhorns. That’s the nature of sports and fandom. Nothing complex here.
Let’s not try to justify it as anything more than that. It’s a continuation of a pattern of behavior from Mayfield where arm and his legs win big games and his tangential antics create dialogue and questionable attention.
The combination makes him wildly popular for Oklahoma fans and will ultimately make him a public enemy throughout the rest of the country.
Wear the bandana, sport the Fu Manchu, wave a towel, plant a flag. All of it’s allowed, some of it even encouraged. But all three are trigger points for detractors. Is it fair or right? Probably not. But that kind of style gets harshly judged.
And all indicators point to Mayfield not only enjoying it, but injecting it into his being to fuel his personal intensity of 1,000 suns.
Mayfield may well be the best player in college football. He’s beyond skilled and acutely savvy. Good chance Mayfield wins the Heisman Trophy, too. Yet when you look a bit deeper, his flag ceremony Saturday night shouldn’t have been a surprise to many.
It should have been anticipated.