Some of my colleagues across the country are using their Heisman Trophy ballots to stage personal protests. They are voting against NCAA hypocrisy and cheating in college football.
Wish them luck.
I choose not to follow their path, mostly because doing so would seem as absurd as using a paper towel to try to clean a 600-acre sewage plant.
Their actions may be admirable, but we'll realize how pointless they were this weekend, when Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, despite being omitted from numerous ballots, wins the award symbolic of college football's best player.
Of the four players invited to attend the presentation ceremony Saturday in New York, Newton is the clear favorite. The others -- Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, Oregon running back LaMichael James and Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore -- are there to see themselves in a suit. And for the fabulous, free trip to Manhattan.
Newton, a junior, is an incredible talent. He passes, runs, exudes charisma. He is built like a tight end and runs like a deer with the strength of a bull.
He also happens to be one of the most controversial figures in college sports.
There is Newton's arrest as a freshman at Florida for being in possession of a stolen laptop computer, which he tried to dump when the police showed up. Only after Newton completed a pretrial diversion program were charges dropped, upon which he transferred to Blinn Community College in Texas and led that team to a 2009 national championship.
There also is an allegation that his father, Cecil Newton, sought as much as $180,000 from Mississippi State during its 2009 recruitment of his son. It looks all the worse to know Cam had practically painted himself in MSU colors. He had grown close to Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen, whom Cam got to know when both were at Florida. Cam last year stood on the MSU sideline and cheered.
On signing day, he chose Auburn.
So, yes, the Newton mess emits a rotten fish smell that permeates the entire Southeastern Conference.
The NCAA concluded last week that a violation of amateurism rules occurred, leading Auburn to rule Newton ineligible. The school then appealed, and the NCAA restored his eligibility a day later, allowing Newton to play in the SEC title game against South Carolina.
The folks who run college football follow the money. They want college football's biggest star to be on display for the crowning moment of the season. If Auburn had played Saturday without Newton and lost, the price of commercials for the Jan. 10 game featuring Oregon and TCU would have gone down.
So, yes, the stench is over all parties involved.
But that is big-time college sports, operating as it usually does. And rotten fish is nothing when compared with a sewage plant.
That brings me back to the Heisman ballot submitted late Saturday afternoon and why Newton's name found a place on it. Second place is where I put him, ahead of Da'Quan Bowers, the dynamic defensive end from Clemson.
Right after my first-place vote had gone to Luck.
It was a fairly simple process. I generally vote for the best player I see in person. That's Luck. He's a fantastic passer, a fearless and effective leader who was the player most responsible for the Cardinal's top-five ranking.
Though Luck is not as mesmerizing as Newton, the two were so close in so many ways, I feel obligated and comfortable with rewarding the man with the cleaner résumé.
The Bowers vote was just as easy. My research to determine the best defensive player in college football stopped at him. Because defensive players don't get a fair share of Heisman love, I seek one who belongs. That's my small protest.
The hypocritical ways of the NCAA and the rampant cheating are issues that deserve their own spotlight, on another day. It happens. The NCAA knows it, coaches know it, players and agents know it. Those providing the cash and other benefits ensure it.
Unlike some of my brethren, I was not influenced by the Reggie Bush fiasco, which surely and predictably splashed Newton. There is concern, reasonably, about voting for someone who might be dirty -- and received favorable treatment because he is a cash cow.
Why pretend outrage and make an empty statement of principle when it seems more practical to consider reality and assume business as usual?
Contact Monte Poole at firstname.lastname@example.org.