So now we have allegations of Autographs-For-Hire, a preemptive strike by the NCAA/ESPN team on the bullet-riddled body and psyche of Aggie quarterback Johnny Manziel. Texas A&M predictably and decisively responded, “No comment,” instead of vehemently defending this young man, though the school may, perhaps, still be traumatized by the recent loss of yet another outstanding young man on the football team to a tragic accident.
We learned Monday evening A&M has now gone out and hired an Alabama law firm to defend its property and, hopefully, prepare a lawsuit for defamation.
Yes, you’re right; there’s already one lawsuit that’s ongoing against the NCAA pertaining to the use of college athletes’ names and likenesses, headed by former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon. It includes all-time greats Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell, and now six current athletes have joined in on the fun. Class-action, anyone? Johnny, there’s still a spot being held for you at the head table, but there’s probably not a vengeful bone in your body that I’ve seen anyway…unless it’s to kill a golf club.
But this article isn’t an attack on the NCAA or ESPN, only on the people representing them. We know that good people also work in the IRS; you just don’t know who they are, specifically. No, this article is more along the lines of a Doc Holliday rather than a Johnny Ringo.
This AMATEUR athlete, under no contractual obligation whatsoever, brings in thousands of dollars – at the school’s bequest – either through his personal presence at a sold-out $20,000 dinner table, or via autographed memorabilia strategically stored away and ready to be sold for $15K, anytime and anywhere it is called upon. But hey, colleges can’t legally profit off a player’s likeness, right? No, this can only be done at official functions, such as Coach’s nights, Quarterback Club Meetings, team dinners, scheduled personal appearances, etc. How perfectly appropriate, as long as no royalties are paid for No. 2 jerseys. No, we don’t do that!
Until the NCAA and its ESPN snipers’ forensic team find any actual grease on the palms of the slickest dude in college football history, I think this little file that’s been laying in somebody’s drawer for months, to be revealed on the actual day the Aggies reported for camp, should be slipped quietly back into its drawer, uh, picture and all. Thus far, it’s no more than a hack attack in both journalism and judgment.
I can’t wait to find out what they already have stored up for Coach Sumlin and the Aggies on, say, the next signing date. That should be very interesting, indeed. Timing is crucial in the Sports Media bidness, and after all the huffing and puffing to blow the house down, the only entities to flinch were the gambling organizations, which took everything off the board with the names of Manziel or Texas A&M on them. Shrewd move. Inside trading, perhaps?
I’ve also recently read several takes on a piece from Wright Thompson of ESPN, and the accompanying comments were fairly entertaining – if not sorta hard to stomach. His article snaps off action shots of the Manziel existence for what could pass as reality TV. It doesn’t come off quite as well as, say, Duck Dynasty, but it does open some eyes to the compulsory dysfunction that all Americans seem attracted to. Like flying insects speeding merrily to a neon light, Americans love their troubled ones and are frenetically abuzz amongst themselves upon landing.
My beef with Thompson’s article is that once he discovered what was going on behind the scenes, why didn’t he also drive down to San Antonio to speak with Johnny’s high school coach, Mark Smith, a friend of mine for 30 years? I’d like to know what Johnny’s exceptional “will to win” trait earned him and his team – or cost them – during his playing days in Kerrville.
Then after allowing this sports journalist a free pass into their lives, the Manziels must have been shocked to see Thompson in an interview on ESPN say, “Manziel can be an idiot.” Think about this for a moment. How many were cheering this statement? Think about the Manziels, who may have considered it just another betrayal of trust. Later Tim Brando, a fellow Louisianian who I had the pleasure of listening to at the Ole Miss Quarterback Club Kickoff this past week, commented on his radio show that some people are just better off without parents, implying Johnny’s worst enemies may be his own Mom and Dad. And on it goes.
As a four-year starter at A&M at the quarterback position, back when our teams began “building the brand” ( a 50% increase in stadium capacity immediately following our era IS “brand building”), I’m one who sees LEADERSHIP in anger. It’s part of football, although many with no quarterbacking experience may not see the productivity potential of such anger in leadership. Sorry folks; it’s a requisite in football to have a unique passion that overflows on occasion into frustration when wanting to get something accomplished or corrected. How many times have we seen a QB showing frustration with a teammate as the cameras zoom in and thought, “Oh man, this guy’s a jerk.” No, he’s not. He is a coach on the field, and this is how coaches are wired to react. If this is tough to watch, go find yourself some tennis.
This is Johnny’s shield and, unfortunately, his Achilles heel, simply because people do not understand the correlation between the two. When you lead a football team trained to crush the opposition physically, mentally and emotionally, you comprehend the concept. It comes naturally for the great ones who know tact is its only moderator. Weak minds can’t do this. Tolerant minds can’t do this. Only minds with a vision and an untamed intensity level can do this. Johnny sees and feels things differently than any football player before him. Remember “Magic Eye” from the 80s? He’s got it read before you’ve even glanced down.
There’s either an offense or a defense with Johnny Manziel, as his polarizing effect on folks has reached new heights. Let’s see; he has been labeled by his Dad as having anger issues because he’s a perfectionist. Hey, I’ve been on a golf course with former top-notch college quarterbacks. That wasn’t fun, either, as they can be somewhat irascible. Their competitive nature removes any enjoyment of just being out on a beautiful day enjoying some countryside. My inability to physically play the game because of a collarbone injury in college precluded any fits of anger on my part, so I was just along for the ride.
Johnny’s been said to deal with the pressures by drinking some cold beer. Okay, we’ve got anger issues and a propensity for downing some cold ones. Perhaps this sounds a little familiar to millions of Americans…mirror, mirror on the wall. To top it off, he has audaciously celebrated his once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment and matching talent in a manner never before done, ahem, known to be done, in college football history. This will brew up resentment aplenty from some and admiration from others.
After taking over a very talented Texas A&M football team at 17 years of age, I know exactly where he’s coming from. In our playing days during the mid-70s we had one team rule; no beer drinking allowed on Fridays during the season. Eighteen was the legal drinking age. Yes, there were even those who happily contributed to my juvenile delinquency and I never even considered carrying a fake ID. Seriously, that was the rule. No beer on the day before the game. Sometimes we even had occasional beers with several of our coaches–and also had the first back-to-back 10-win seasons in the school’s history. That’s where we learned the term “Everything in Moderation.” That WAS moderation. And it WAS college.
The problem arises when you leave college, but cling to the college spirits, if you will. This is what lands most people in trouble, and for Johnny’s sake, I hope he recognizes this sooner than later. Many individuals live with the fact that the only truly regrettable mistakes they’ve made in life were while under the influence of alcohol. Tebow and Manziel may be in different galaxies, but I believe both to be good men true to themselves and their convictions. Self-image is one thing and public perception another, while reality likely lies somewhere in between.
Johnny now gets advice from every Tom, Dick and Sherry who can talk or type. His own school newspaper wants him gone, and the coaching staff allegedly revealed confidential information regarding what he thought were settled, in-house matters. The AD publicly announced a little counseling session between himself and the family, and, meanwhile, the coach earns a million dollar raise. No. 2 jerseys are seen EVERYWHERE in Texas and every other spot in the WORLD where Aggies live. Even the NCAA, itself, is currently profiting off maroon A&M jerseys that bear the #2 on them–and sport the word “Football” on the back.
Meanwhile there’s a national frenzy on the part of the media–who seem to publicly despise Johnny, but deep down love the freebies. They appear to enjoy having the floor and flooding the airwaves with their opinions, which he has so graciously provided them.
Meanwhile, Johnny plays for a school that is insistent on receiving the credit for its “brand-building” efforts, as if Texas A&M just opened its doors a few years ago. Former Marketeer at A&M, Jason Cook, was quoted prior to Johnny’s Heisman night saying, “The A&M brand is BIGGER than Johnny Manziel.” Seriously? Why throw that out there? What happened to the credo, “It’s amazing what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit?”
You never know what’s going on inside the walls of an athletic department. It’s a simple fact that what you see isn’t necessarily a result of all you may think. Cause and effect rule the game–and, though you may see the latter, you certainly don’t always see what goes into the former. My college coach once made derogatory comments to the media regarding my mental state. In no way would this be allowed today. In my case, it was the coach’s way of covering up some serious medical malfeasance that remained publicly concealed until only recently. It was easier for him to imply I had some sort of mental issue, than explain what my physical injuries were–and why they had been covered up. Johnny faces similar criticisms today. He is now a so-called “head-case” to many, and this is truly unfortunate.
And when all a player wants to do is be on that field, then anything goes, and he’ll sit there and take it, but he steams none-the-less. Or, perhaps, he lets his Mom and Dad air out the family grievances so as not to endure personal vendettas or repercussions from those for whom he works. Brilliant.
The fact that Johnny’s parents apparently now have resentment toward A&M, and chose to publicize it while under questioning, is easily understandable, regardless of how we judge the content or meaning of their observations. They’ve seen and heard many “loyal” Aggies crushing their son on the radio and in the forums, and they worry about a coming explosion or pending catastrophe, as any parent would. Pressure.
From my own personal experience with this sort of external and internal treatment, I have no doubt Johnny Football will come in with the Eye of the Tiger demanding excellence, and everyone had better look out. If you think John Elway was tough on his teammates, you ain’t seen nothing yet. What everyone forgets is, Johnny owns this rodeo and everything in it. If he offends a few guys, they’ll need to learn to live with it because there is no room for error. If a receiver can’t escape a defender, then get the guy off the field; he’s no good to me. If a guy can’t remember his assignments, then get him off the field too. Everybody who’s gonna play FOR Johnny Manziel better have their heads screwed on straight. I imagine his patience is running a little thin. This is actually his Junior year for both football and education, and ultra-talented, experienced 20 year-olds make outstanding leaders. Learning curve? Sorry. Get lost.
Johnny’s Number 1 ranking among returning quarterbacks in ESPN’s all-new (and extremely righteous) QBR rating system for college quarterbacks is further proof we’re only on the cusp of his potential. The demons apparently disappear when the lights come on and a football is in his hand. And as someone once said, “Sometimes the strongest among us are the ones who smile through silent pain, cry behind closed doors, and fight battles nobody knows about.”
Me? I can only hope he wins four Heismans and flips everyone off on his way out the door. But that’s just wishful thinking. Meanwhile, it’s time for Johnny Football to be getting in some target practice of his own.