It’s one of the most predictable reactions in all of sports. A player on the team you’ve lived and died for is in trouble, and you blindly defend him without any reason or logic. Quickly you’ll circle the wagons and blast – or more likely hate with bias, anyone that doesn’t see that player as a helpless victim. Too often as fans we do this at the expense of the team we love, which is how we fell in love with said player in the first place.
A&M fans are embarrassing themselves in this fashion right now. Johnny Manziel breaks the rules, so the rules are stupid, the rule-makers sociopaths and corrupt, the team we love an evil empire with a slave-owner mentality, and poor Johnny just a martyr trying to right a wrong against an unjust system.
You want the “black and white” version of this unfolding story, here it is. Johnny Manziel – allegedly (although we all believe at this point he did) broke the rules by signing memorabilia in exchange for money, seemingly at every chance he got, without regard for his teammates, his coaches, his school, or his fanbase. He knew with each signing all could be punished for his actions. He only cared about #2.
Let that sink in A&M fans, because that’s the truth. Find a coach or teammate who welcomes the distractions and potential suspension of the quarterback they built this season around. Johnny Heisman didn’t care about you, or your school, or your team. He only cared about Johnny Heisman.
If you live in Texas and want to smoke pot – even if you think that law is arcane, you do so at your own risk. To smoke pot legally (at least under state law), you move to Colorado or Washington, or get the state of Texas to legalize the activity. Manziel didn’t fight for the right to sign his name for money in his pocket, he went back-alley knowing it was wrong. I ask you 12th Man, give me one example of Manziel’s care for you – or your school’s well-being in all of this.
Typically at this point those in Manziel’s corner become enraged and fall back on two misguided themes: Johnny’s a victim because the rules are stupid and unjust, and Johnny’s a victim of a witch-hunt. Neither is accurate.
Quickly on the witch-hunt conspiracy, because this is ridiculous. ESPN is not out to get you because they own the Longhorn Network. ESPN’s larger (and significantly more profitable) deal with the SEC, and the Longhorn Network are business decisions. The LN doesn’t get more financially viable because the SEC deal becomes less so. If one of your hands became useless would your response be to cut the other one off?
Okay, is the NCAA a complete and total embarrassment? Yes it is. Should athletes be compensated for their efforts? Yes they should. But these are truly separate discussions. For those that want recite the economic value that Manziel brings to College Station, did you forget that those monies help to fund 17 other athletic teams, or the facilities that those teams’ use? Did you forget about the recently announced plans to expand Kyle Field? Should coaches, or administrators, or NCAA leaders make the salaries they do – especially at the expense of not compensating the players? No, but again that’s a separate discussion.
Should Johnny Manziel get a cut of every Number 2 jersey sold? No, Tom Brady doesn’t. Tom divides the revenue for every Brady jersey sold not only with every other member of his team, but every other member of every other team in the NFL. Same goes for Lebron and every other fan favorite in professional sports.
Johnny also doesn’t deserve the right to sign his name to a football helmet or poster for cash. Even if Tom Brady can. Because Manziel isn’t bigger than the sport or school he plays for. And Tom Brady’s league – like every other professional league, has rules in place to protect the greater good, it’s called a draft.
The draft helps to create a competitive balance. A level playing field. It’s not a perfect science. The Yankees are richer than the Twins. The Cowboys are richer than the Jaguars. The Lakers are more financially viable than the Grizzlies. Just as – under current rules, A&M has significantly more money than the other team in the SEC wearing maroon – Mississippi State. A draft allows all professional sports a more even distribution of talent so that skill, and not location determine the outcome.
Does Manziel signing autographs give A&M a competitive advantage for the 2013 season? No. But if Johnny can do it, everybody can. And that would create a huge competitive disadvantage. Most of the NCAA rulebook is designed to legislate how teams procure talent. All in an effort for a level playing field.
Most think they’ve countered this point with, “But it’s not level now! Alabama and Ohio State and Texas and A&M have all the money and success now.” Yet Alabama still went decades between titles. The Tide’s resources aren’t the reason they’ve won three of the last four, Nick Saban is. Sure Ohio State has much more money than Wisconsin. They also have more Big 10 Titles since ’92 when the football landscape changed. But the Badgers six titles – compared to the Buckeyes eleven, at least shows there’s a chance. Michigan has huge resources, do they win in spite of poor coaching (see: skill)? No they don’t Rich-Rod. And for all the advantages – financially and otherwise that the Aggies posses, they love and support Manziel in this scandal not because he’s right or a victim, but because he delivered the first eleven win season in 14 years, and Heisman in 55. A&M needs the MSU’s and Ole Miss’ of the world, if for nothing more than competition. Just as the Cowboys need the Jags, or Steelers and Packers – who wouldn’t compete in an uncontrolled market.
For those that don’t care about a level playing field – let Johnny get whatever Johnny can get, they’re not college football fans, they’re Johnny Manziel fans. And they’ll be gone when he goes. What about you 12th Man?