Close your eyes and picture the Heisman Trophy. The form is easy to conjure, a graceful, fluid pose that is football past and football present in one dignified figure ... The story of the Heisman Trophy is an american epic. -- from the Preface No sport in America can match the pageantry, raw emotion, and thrilling tradition of college football. It is a world in which a twenty-year-old kid can become a national sensation overnight, in which coaches are deified and rivalries burn white-hot. And in this world, there is no individual award so revered as the Heisman Trophy. Every year since 1935, one player has run, thrown, or kicked his way into the pantheon of American sport. From Nile "The Cornbelt Comet" Kinnick in the '30s, West Point's legendary backfield of Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis in the '40s, and Paul Hornung in the '50s to Ernie Davis, the Jackie Robinson of college football, miracle worker Doug Flutie, and modern-day Sunday warrior Eddie George, the history of the Heisman gives us insight into the heart of America through the lives of the heroes that entranced an entire nation for one brilliant season.
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October 11, 2004
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Excerpt from The Heisman by Bill Pennington
The Downtown Athletic Club and John W. Heisman
In 1926 America, unemployment was virtually nonexistent. The standard of living was at an all-time high. Post World War I America had the most powerful economy on earth, presaging the still young country's expansion as a world power. In a changing century, America charged forward with rootless abandon. The political and financial leadership of America in 1926 had been raised in a very different country, a primitive place of wide, un-charted open plains. The newspapers of their childhoods had been filled with events like the massacre of General George Armstrong Custer, a seminal episode in American history commemorating its fiftieth anniversary in 1926. But in the industrial society of the day, Custer's demise was treated with a noteworthy detachment, as if it occurred during the American Revolution.
This was an America sprinting so fast into a future of unrestrained hopes and dreams, it placed events like horseback skirmishes in western plains into a bygone era. Time was measured not in the years passed but in the stunning introduction of one technological advance after another: electricity, the automobile, air flight, the motion picture, and the theory of relativity.
Not surprisingly, this exploding America was a sprawling cultural paradox. After years of rallies and national debate, the eighteenth amendment, banning alcohol, had been passed in 1920. Six years later, it was widely ignored. In 1926, the most praised, and notorious, movie was Sergei Eisenstein's Potemkin, a communist manifesto. But the most noteworthy literary contribution of the year was F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, an examination of an altogether different society.
In 1926, the country mourned the death of silent film star Rudolph Valentino. In the same year, a Scottish inventor named M. John Baird demonstrated a new machine capable of the wireless transmission of moving pictures. People had taken to calling the device a Baird, but the inventor preferred his own term, the television.