Why do you hate Johnny Manziel?

After Rice lost to Texas A&M on Saturday, Physguy put fingers to keyboard to write that he hates A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. Why? It’s tough to tell, exactly. Physguy doesn’t like the on-field taunting and “trash talk to Rice players,” although he concedes that Rice players “were probably trash talking [Manziel] too but didn’t get flagged for it.” He also didn’t like it when Manziel asked his teammates to make room for him on the bench. (For completeness, I might as well add that Manziel apparently Tebowed too.)

When I saw the reigning Heisman Trophy winner make the gesture depicted above on Saturday, it reminded me of Gilbert Arenas’ guns-up pregame celebration following his suspension for presenting firearms in the Washington Wizards’ locker room. Probably not the smartest thing to do, given the context. But then again, guns and the people who use them kill people; autographs, given for a fee or otherwise, do not.

More on context though: 1) the “money” touchdown celebration isn’t a new one for Manziel or A&M; 2) as the USA Today article to which Physguy linked explains, Nick Elder, one of Rice’s own players, defended Manziel, tweeting that he was the player to whom Manziel was talking, and the message was, “what’s up nick, nice hit”; and 3) to state the obvious about football players, Manziel isn’t even the first quarterback to engage in attention-seeking celebrations.

For more on that third point, consider that Manziel’s celebrations are self-referential, and, as such, perhaps preferable. Former Boise State quarterback and probable Detroit Lions starter at some point this season Kellen Moore favored the “double-guns-shoot-your-coach” touchdown celebration. Nothing really wrong with that, but if we’re being hyper-sensitive to these things, there’s at least an element of violence there. It isn’t directed at the other team, like Tim Tebow’s gator chomp, or disrespecting a team’s stadium or symbols.

Maybe Physguy, a Rice fan, is sore because of Manziel’s success against the Owls– in about 1.25 quarters of play, Manziel had three TD passes and no interceptions, going 6/8 for ninety-four yards through the air and nineteen more on the ground– which is ok (Rice sometimes lets games slip away in the second half), but fans of a losing team can’t really quibble with celebrations that are a (showy, but non-offensive to the other team) variant of pointing to the scoreboard. At least Manziel was celebrating successful plays on the way to a win for his team. Over-celebrating when you’re losing is worthy of a critical blog post (e.g., Cam Newton last fall against the Giants); when you’re winning, such are the spoils of victory.

And if it’s perceived snarkiness that concerns Physguy– he wrote that “my Rice Owls . . . stayed classy”– what does he have to say for his beloved Marching Owl Band, which played to the current controversy at least as much as Manziel by wearing Manziel-autograph t-shirts as their uniforms for the day?

Towards the end, Physguy writes: “But this story, despite the title, isn’t about Manziel. It’s first about the media coverage of him.” The frequency with which the ESPN announcers mentioned Manziel and the focus of its cameras on the temporarily suspended quarterback drew Physguy’s scorn. The controversial return to action of the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy is a hugely appropriate story for coverage, though. If Physguy is disappointed that the coverage of Manziel came at the expense of coverage of his team, he should consider that without Manziel on the other side of the ball, Rice isn’t playing on national television last weekend. Moreover, if he really wanted to take issue with the Worldwide Leader’s treatment of a young Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, he should have focused his critical eye on ESPN’s coverage of the New England Patriots’ decision to release Tim Tebow, which aired to the exclusion of an actually compelling human interest story surrounding NFL preseason roster cuts.

Rather than address Physguy’s final full paragraph, which finds him even further afield from the topic at hand, I’ll end by saying that I hope Johnny Manziel can keep it together on and off the field this season, because I want to see him play. While he almost certainly is headed to the NFL next year, I don’t think he has a lot of professional potential. Let’s enjoy Johnny (College) Football in his element as long as we can. No need to hate.

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Memphis to accept guns in exchange for Grizzlies tickets

The Commercial Appeal reports:

The city of Memphis will trade gas cards and Grizzlies tickets for guns in a “judgement-free” program designed to reduce the number of weapons on the streets.

During the event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Bloomfield Baptist Church, the city and its partners plan to hand over a $50 Mapco gas card for each gun a person turns in, for a maximum of $150 worth of gas cards, per person. Those who surrender guns will also receive two free tickets to a preseason Memphis Grizzlies game.

Agent Zero approves of this basketball/guns program.

Whatever the reason, Carmelo Anthony Is hurting the Knicks

Or perhaps the passive voice is appropriate here: The Knicks are being hurt by Carmelo Anthony. Observe:

With fifty-four playoff games played, this isn’t the result of a small sample size.

What’s harder to know is whether Anthony is to blame or if he’s the anti-Steve Kerr. If it’s the former, which everybody thinks, that’s pretty bad. If it’s the latter, though, Anthony should retire right now and become a general manager.

(HT: Mr. Jedediah)

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The real reason Carmelo Anthony is hurting the Knicks

Brian Phillips on Kobe Bryant and outer space

In terms of watchability, the Lakers are a miserable team this year, even by NBA standards, and the pre-season rap that the (well, more than) once-great team was little more than an aging-but-relevant superstar loner, a largely unsupportive (and largely unrecognizable) supporting cast, and a coach not named Phil Jackson has borne out. Even the team’s most famous fan thinks these Lakers are a snooze-fest.

But what about Kobe this year? First, he was visibly upset about the dismissal of Lamar Odom. More recently, he was visibly ignorant of Jeremy Lin. Slightly more recently, he was the victim of Jeremy Lin’s best career NBA performance. The uniform he’s wearing this year is too big. He seems to lack context, even for himself. What’s his story this year?

Kobe has arguably reached the end of his prime, and while it’s fascinating to watch him hoop with somebody’s swooning great aunt, you can’t help but feel like the moment deserves higher stakes. Kobe’s relentlessness has always been his most celebrated quality, but this season, he’s starting to remind me of one of those space probes that somehow keep feeding back data even after they’ve gone out twice as far as the zone where they were supposed to break down. You know these stories — no one at NASA can believe it, every day they come into work expecting the line to be dead, but somehow, the beeps and blorps keep coming through. Maybe half the transmissions get lost these days, or break up around the moons of Jupiter, but somehow, this piece of isolated metal keeps functioning on a cold fringe of the solar system that no human eyes have seen.

That’s Kobe, right? While the rest of the Lakers look increasingly anxious and time-bound, he just keeps gliding farther out, like some kind of experiment to see whether never having a single feeling can make you immortal. He’s barely preserving radio contact with anyone else at this point, but basketball scientists who’ve seen fragments of his diagnostic readouts report that the numbers are heartening. It’s bizarre. He’s simultaneously the main character in the Lakers’ drama and someone who seems to have nothing to do with the narrative logic of the post-Phil team. Whatever the Mike Brown era is, he’s got no point of contact with it. Even Gasol and Bynum, his best supporting players, essentially just concentrate on not interfering with his flight path. Everyone stays out of his way, which is easy, because “his way” is a couple of billion miles from the rest of the Lakers.

So writes Brian Phillips for Grantland, in a piece arguing that the Lakers have nothing to lose by adding Gilbert Arenas right now.

I’m not sure what I think about Agent Zero these days, I do know that I think Phillips pretty much nailed it with that description. 2012 Kobe is playing like carry-the-team-on-my-back Kobe, except that he doesn’t seem too concerned about whether he’s actually dragging the team along behind him. Spike Lee’s Kobe Doin’ Work was about the 2008 playoffs, but the title might more aptly describe this season, where Kobe’s blue collar isn’t so much the value and virtue-laden, American proverbial blue collar as it is an indication that he’s merely punching the clock.