Baker Mayfield has a cold.
My apologies for borrowing from the greatest magazine story ever written, by Gay Talese, for Esquire, in 1966, about Frank Sinatra.
But, hey, this may be the most talked-about case of nasal congestion in Tinsel Town since Talese profiled an ailing Sinatra in advance of the singer’s NBC special “A Man and His Music.”
Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, winner of this year’s Heisman Trophy, failed to show for Friday’s scheduled media event in downtown Los Angeles.
Why is this important?
On Monday, at the Rose Bowl, Oklahoma faces Georgia in a national semifinal game in the College Football Playoff.
Mayfield is said to be battling something fierce and has lost his voice. A voice to a quarterback is almost as important as it is to a singer. Think about Peyton Manning screaming “Omaha!” or “58 is the MIKE” to his offensive line.
“Sinatra with a cold is Picasso without paint,” Talese wrote all those years ago.
Baker not only has to speak to be effective, he also has to run, throw and dodge the mighty defense of the Georgia Bulldogs.
Mayfield is expected to be, as recently conferred by the Heisman electorate, the most outstanding player on the Rose Bowl field. He is the team’s emotional leader and temperamental spitfire, ready to grab his crotch to incite, or inspire, or plant his flag on your 50.
Mayfield is also a sensational player, with 41 touchdown passes this year against only five interceptions. He has completed 71 % of his passes and almost all of his sentences.
If he can’t play, or communicate, or is otherwise physically impaired, Oklahoma can’t possibly be the same. Right? And not even Georgia wants that.
“I hope (Mayfield does get to play,” Bulldogs’ defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter said Friday.
Most players have felt Mayfield’s pain.
“I actually played in a game I did have a fever,” Ledbetter said. “I just put on a thermal. I kind of tried to sweat it out. I was in the hotel coughing, throwing up. I still came out and played. Until I can’t play, I’m going to play.”
My guess is that Mayfield will play, and play well, because he has history on his side.
Sinatra’s voice came back in time to sing “The Lady is a Tramp.”
Athletes, entertainers and yes, even sportswriters, have overcome illness to do some of their finest work. The rest of this article is available to subscribers only – to become a subscriber click here.