No-longer-suspended-from-Twitter ESPN “Sports Business Reporter” Darren Rovell buried the lede in a story published yesterday related to the news that some leaders at Texas A&M are considering renaming the schools’ football stadium “Kyle Field: The House That Johnny Built.” Rather than a foolhardy, if historically accurate, branding exercise, the real story here is the apparent rift between former Aggie quarterback Johnny Manziel and “Uncle” Nate Fitch, Manziel’s longtime friend and manager of sorts.
The details of Fitch’s relationship with the former Heisman Trophy winner are sketchy, but the story seems to be that Fitch saw a star in his high-school friend and went all-in:
[Fitch is] a college dropout, in the entrepreneurial sense of the word, more dreamer than slacker. He’s Manziel’s assistant, media coordinator, business manager, designated driver. He goes by Uncle Nate, which is a nickname Manziel says Fitch gave himself. Fitch, 20, allegedly works for free, betting on the come, looking into the future when Manziel is an NFL star. He wears a gold rope bracelet, acting like an agent on a television show, talking with confidence about tit-for-tat horse trading and his deep knowledge of the NCAA rulebook. . . . As publicists go, he handled himself like a pro.
Now, however, the news of the possible renaming of Kyle Field has shed new light on the relationship between Fitch and Manziel, and it looks like the two aren’t on the same page. According to the Rovell story, Fitch’s family attempted to register “The House That Johnny Built” as a trademark, but the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office refused the requested registration. Manziel himself already applied for the same trademark back in January.
What’s going on between these two? I obviously don’t know, and my sources in the Houston area aren’t talking, but it sure looks like Manziel and Fitch have gone from collaborators to competitors.
About an hour after the Cleveland Browns drafted Manziel late in the first round of the NFL draft last week, Fitch posted a tweet:
There are plenty of obvious potential narratives here, but the fact that no one seems to be investigating the apparent discord between Manziel and Fitch may simply be a testament to the overwhelming scope of the NFL stage. Over the past two years, reporters couldn’t get enough of Johnny Manziel, SEC quarterback. As of last Thursday, though, he’s just another NFL rookie.