Heisman snub is not personal

Saquon Barkley was not a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, and that’s not the end the world. Nor did he “deserve” to be in New York City for the presentation.

My personal belief — based largely on what the media has shared with me about Barkley during his career — was that he merited consideration for the award, and it would have been a nice honor for him to be among the finalists.

That was not the case, though, and with finalist status based on voting returns for the award, the standout running back and stellar representative for the Penn State football program was not in the Big Apple for Saturday night’s announcement.

That’s OK. He’s no less a quality football player, no less a person, and the Heisman Memorial Trust is no less an organization because he was not present in the room when the award was presented to someone else this year.

Throughout our region, though, some media suggested that Barkley deserved to be there. That’s just not the case. That’s a good, sound opinion but not a fact. Had he been among the top vote-getters, he would have been there.

Sure, maybe college football is a little less because an apparently well-rounded student-athlete does not get some national attention, but Barkley has pulled in his share of deserved awards.

Often, when media members make a case like that for someone, it feels like it’s more personal for them than the person they’re covering.

Perspectives changing

A little less than a week ago, as the Steelers and Bengals battled on “Monday Night Football,” the broadcast’s on-air team continually worked to reset the sensibilities of the football-viewing public.

Often during the hard-hitting, emotional game, play-by-play man Sean McDonough and analyst and former coach Jon Gruden sounded offended at the physicality of the contest. They wondered aloud about how the game was being played and how it should be played.

It was an interesting situation, because my sense at the time was that the fans were watching a different game than the TV guys. That was reaffirmed listening to Steelers fans on the team’s post-game radio call-in show and listening to sports-talk shows locally and nationally in the days after the game.

Generally, the fans were OK with the nature of the game.

That JuJu Smith-Schuster hit that drew a pair of penalty flags? Many black-and-gold fans saw that as a football play. And, honestly, no matter your loyalties, it was a block during the course of the game’s action. Smith-Schuster’s taunting afterward should have been flagged, but the hit itself was just a big, visible collision.

It looked like football. Or at least like football used to look.

With the broadcasters lamenting the style of play, though, it’s just another step in the ongoing culture change of what’s to be expected, what’s legal and what’s not during a football game. And make no mistake: Broadcasters and the media in general play a big role in setting the standards for what fans expect to see during a game, as well as what they consider just football or an illegal action.

There’s no doubt fans cringe more at certain big hits these days than they might have just a few seasons ago. With growing concerns about player health and related research, that’s a fair reaction.

It’s also a reaction that’s been generated in part by media coverage and perspectives offered from the broadcast booth in recent years.

Shazier situation

Kudos to the “Monday Night Football” folks for being a little more helpful and revealing about the injury to Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier than their Steelers Radio Network counterparts during last week’s game.

Actually, it was more about access and emotion than willingness to share information.

It seemed everyone had the same details, but at halftime when former NFL quarterback Steve Young talked about being on the sidelines and seeing Shazier unable to move, Young’s emotions were palpable. It was honest, and it was compelling.

Maybe he was at just the right spot on the sideline to provide that access and see what he saw, but the radio coverage of Shazier’s injury seemed cursory by comparison.

Tuner tidbits

n NFL Network’s Kurt Warner, the Hall of Fame quarterback, will work the Steelers-Texans game on Christmas day as a TV analyst. He’ll replace Cris Collinsworth as an NBC-led team broadcasts the game that kicks off at 4:30 p.m. and airs on NBC and the NFL Network. Warner will also the Bears-Lions game on Saturday. He does studio work for NFL Network but has been a game analyst for Fox and Westwood One in the past.

n It seems like Arizona State might be making a mistake with its all-access, behind-the-scenes videos featuring recently hired football coach Herm Edwards. While it’s my hope the former college and NFL coach and TV analyst will be successful, he has seemed somewhat out of touch in the videos that have been shared publicly. It will be interesting to see how he relates to high school players he has to recruit.

Sampsell can be reached at stevesampsell@gmail.com.


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