This year, when I returned my ballot for the Fitzpatrick Trophy, I included the following letter:

Dear Mr. Dawson, and the rest of the James J. Fitzpatrick Trophy selection committee:

For the past 10 years, I’ve been fortunate to take part in the voting for the James J. Fitzpatrick Trophy. I watch a lot of high school football each fall, and at the end of every season, it’s an honor I look forward to and one I take seriously.

That said, I include this letter with my returned ballot to tell you how disappointed I am that I do not have the opportunity to vote for Jordan Whitney of Mt. Blue High School.

This is not a first-time occurrence. This is the third consecutive year the Fitzpatrick trophy has gained more attention for who is not on the ballot than for the players selected. I suppose it’s a sign that Maine high school football is in good shape when we’re able to debate honors such as the Fitzpatrick trophy. Still, rather than celebrate the candidates selected, everyone who follows Maine high school football is left scratching his or her head as to why certain players were left off the ballot.

Is it an academic award for football players or is it a football award in which academics and character are taken into consideration? If the Fitzpatrick trophy has evolved into the former, well, maybe a minimum grade-point average should be established for candidates, as to avoid future confusion.

Mr. Dawson, your interview with Lee Goldberg on WCSH shed some light into the process for selecting semifinalists, but it also raised more questions.

Mr. Dawson, you said, “There are a couple of players who didn’t make the list who are incredibly good football players. Their statistics would knock your eye out. But the transcripts would likewise be conspicuous in their comparison with the other transcripts we have.”

In your zeal to preserve the spirit of the Fitzpatrick trophy, I believe the committee has lost the spirit of the Fitzpatrick trophy.

According to Gary Parlin, Mt. Blue head football coach, Jordan Whitney is a B student, who has earned a spot on the Mt. Blue High School honor roll. That gives him credentials I feel are in keeping with the spirit the award Yudy Elowitch intended. I never met Mr. Elowitch, but from everything I’ve heard, he was a man who wanted to honor football players who strive to do well in the classroom and in their community.

Like many nominees, Whitney is not at the top of his class, but he’s not an academic slouch, either. Mr. Dawson, your comments to Lee Goldberg were unfair.

With the exclusion of deserving players in recent years, and the near exclusion of another in 2010, comes an image problem. Perception becomes reality, and the perception around Maine concerning the Fitzpatrick trophy is that the award has a southern Maine bias.

If the Fitzpatrick trophy is to maintain its status as the top honor a Maine high school football player can receive, this perceived bias needs to end. It does not help the Fitzpatrick trophy’s reputation that over the past few years, each player whose omission has left football fans perplexed has been from schools competing in Eastern Maine.

Across the bottom of the letter you sent with the ballot and biographical information of each semifinalist, are these four words: character, sportsmanship, leadership, achievement. Those are the four tenets of the Fitzpatrick trophy and they are qualities for which to strive.

These are qualities I feel Jordan Whitney, along with the 12 semifinalists, exemplifies.

With this in mind, I respectfully write in the name Jordan Whitney of Mt. Blue High School on my ballot.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Travis Lazarczyk

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

tlazarczyk@centralmaine.com