SEC Disclosure: An Intellectual Separation as Manziel Moves North?

kylefield

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:

fitchtweet

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.

ALDLAND Podcast

It’s time for another ALDLAND Podcast, and this one has it all. There’s NBA playoff coverage, discussion of retirement gifts for Derek Jeter, and even live NFL draft updates that won’t matter by the time you listen to this because you will know who was drafted where already. But I’m sure you would agree that it’s the thought that counts.

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Download the ALDLAND podcast at our Podcasts Page or stream it right here:

 

2013 college football bowl schedule

Before getting to the 2013-14 college football bowl schedule and associated predictions and operations, a note on sponsored discourse. In this post-Musburger-for-all-the-Tostitos world, it is an unremarkable fact that the bowl games are not merely sponsored football contests but business entities in and of themselves, the sponsorship-style nomenclature– e.g., “the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl”– a mere reflection of the game’s less overtly monied past. Even the ostensible bastion of postseason intercollegiate purity now is known as “the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio.”

When a bowl game is a business, and not merely a happening, there is an associated shift in the commercial advertising language referential to that business. The NFL’s decision to prohibit the use of “Super Bowl” by non-league advertisers, who now must offer you late-January deals on new televisions for watching “the big game,” provides a rough analogy.

I understand and accept the logic behind a business’ desire to control its portrayal in other business’ advertisements and insist on inclusion of a game’s full, sponsored title in that portrayal. What I do not understand is why the news media plays along. This week, I heard a local sports talk show talk about talking about Georgia’s appearance in “the Taxslayer dot com Gator Bowl,” and that’s far from the only example. I understand that some of the sponsors have integrated their names into the bowl games’ names in such a way that it’s difficult– or, where the sponsor’s name and the bowl’s name are one and the same, impossible– to say the bowl’s name without saying the sponsor’s name as well (e.g., the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl and the Capital One Bowl, respectively). “Taxslayer dot com” is a mouthful, though, and everybody already knows the Gator Bowl. “The Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio” is ridiculous to say, and things like “the Allstate Sugar Bowl,” “FedEx Orange Bowl,” and “Tostitos Fiesta Bowl” simply are superfluous. Why the sports news media feels obligated to append these sponsor names when discussing the bowls is beyond me, and you won’t find us doing it here, unless it’s something humorous like the Beef O’Brady Bowl or the RealOakFurniture.com Bowl.

Onto the bowl schedule, which begins this Saturday.   Continue reading

Tuesday Afternoon Inside Linebacker

fairleyALDLAND’s weekly football roundup is back, taking a look at all the highs and lows of the latest round of football action.

College Football

Pregame:

  • In anticipation of the LSU-UGA game, a secret-recipe cheesy bean dip was made. So much was made, in fact, that it lasted much longer than the game, although not quite as long as Georgia coach Mark Richt spent kissing his wife following a win over Kentucky.

The games:

  • LSU-Georgia was a thriller. Georgia continues to lose important players to injury, but it doesn’t seem to slow them down. This week, star running back Todd Gurley sprained his ankle in the second quarter, but backup Keith Marshall filled in and had a career day. In the end, the Dwags outgunned the Tigers 44-41 and are in the driver’s seat on the road to the SEC championship game in Atlanta.
  • I also thought Ole Miss-Alabama would be a good game, but it was not. The Rebels limited Alabama’s scoring early, but they were unable to do any scoring of their own, which is an easy-bake recipe for a loss. Ole Miss 0, Alabama 25.     Continue reading

College Football Week Three: POLL

pollingCollege football is all about polling, but the polls, though much-discussed, are little-examined by the general fan populace, and they certainly aren’t participatory in nature. ALDLAND has its own college football poll (here’s week 1 and week 2) that inverts these conventions by being little-discussed and highly participatory. Things got a little serious in week 3. Cast your vote below.

Click to vote

Tuesday Afternoon Inside Linebacker

tailALDLAND’s weekly football roundup is back following week three of college football and week two of the NFL.

College Football

Pregame:

  • I caught snippets of ESPN College Gameday and Fox Sports 1’s college football pregame shows. Gameday remains the leader of the pack, but I’d like more time to see how FS1’s show develops. In the meantime, I’ll join FS1’s Joel Klatt in sending good wishes to the folks in Colorado dealing with major flooding right now.

The games — excitement building:

  • With a couple East Carolina fans in town, we watched the Pirates hang with Virginia Tech for about three quarters. The Hokies did all they could, including badly missing a bunch of close kicks, to hand ECU the game. Frank Beamer looked like he wanted to puke, but his team managed to hold it together in the end. Virginia Tech 15, East Carolina 10.
  • We were flipping between that game and UCLA-Nebraska. When I first checked in on this one, Nebraska had a 21-3 lead, and it looked like the best early game of the day would not materialize into a competitive affair. That turned out to be sort of true, but not in the way I expected. UCLA scored thirty-eight unanswered points to beat the now-mythological blackshirt defense in Lincoln 41-21.
  • The game of the day belonged to Alabama and Texas A&M, and it lived up to the hype. Johnny Manziel and the Aggies started very hot, jumping out to a 14-0 lead and choking the Tide’s early drives. A&M scored touchdowns on its first two drives, which averaged 71.5 yards and 2:06 off the clock. Alabama responded, though, methodically amassing thirty-five temporarily unanswered points and carried a 42-21 lead into the fourth quarter. The Aggie defense had yielded to The System, but Manziel wasn’t through, although twenty-one fourth-quarter points wouldn’t be enough to top Alabama. The Crimson Tide remain undefeated, winning 49-42, but Manziel unequivocally proved that he is must-see football every time he plays, and his cohort, receiver Mike Evans, deserves some credit too.     Continue reading

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.

I Hate Johnny Manziel

I am an Owl. I root for Rice week in week out. And it is tough of course. Since I graduated they have gone 15-23 (including today). Joy.

And Texas A&M is better at football than Rice is. Yes we may have had more total yard and more than a QUARTER (over sixteen minutes) more time of possession, but at the end of the day it is still Rice playing a top ten team. A&M made its share of mistakes as did Rice. Turnovers for both teams, key penalties for both teams. It’s week one. You know the drill.

But here I am in my third paragraph on a post titled, for most readers probably, just “Manziel” or “Hate Manziel” and I haven’t mentioned him yet. Yes I think he’s an individual lacking control of himself (although the announcers suggested that that made him a better player – only to later turn around and say that his lack of leadership led to his teammates also getting hit with personal foul penalties), but this post isn’t really about him. He is very talented (although he didn’t really outshine their second stringer Joeckel who went an impressive 14/19 for 190 yards and 1/0 TD/INT – of course we are talking about Rice so outshining is difficult, I know), but I did worry that a number of other talented players on their team (Joeckel most clearly, but probably others as well) were getting outshined.

Certainly Manziel behaved poorly on the field. USA Today summarizes most of the key points here. The highlights include multiple clear examples of trash talk to Rice players. Of course, we were probably trash talking him too but didn’t get flagged for it and it wasn’t obvious. For some bizarre reason he was miming signing autographs. I don’t know why he would think that was a good thing when his investigation is still officially open by the NCAA. I like to think he was saying “People pay me to sign pieces of paper what have you got?”. Yeah he scored a few TDs on us, but we sacked him a few times too so whatever. The missed detail in the linked article that I found particularly ridiculous was when he shows up to sit down on his own bench and requests that players make room for him. A beefy looking lineman promptly gets up and walks away as Manziel cracks a megawatt smile.

But this story, despite the title, isn’t about Manziel. It’s first about the media coverage of him. What?? The media overcovers athletes who are colorful (notice the end of the title of the link above)? Okay true, but hopefully my suggestive title drives enough angry traffic to this site to pay for all the beer I drank every time they mentioned Manziel. It could have been more than once a minute and that doesn’t even account for the Manziel cam they had going on him throughout the first half (when he wasn’t even eligible to play). It sounded like the announcers knew that Rice apparently had a football team and was a food that is delicious with curry among other things. It took ages for them to mention a single Rice player despite our first quarter dominance (neither claim is hyperbole for those who didn’t watch this epic Texas showdown).

Okay, so why am I writing this article? To trash talk ESPN’s massive overcoverage of single silly athletes? There is another problem with the whole situation. Sumlin (the Aggies (that’s what someone from A&M is called apparently) head coach) claimed that Manziel had matured. That said, he still wasn’t voted a team captain despite literally winning the highest prize awarded to any college footballer last year. It comes to mind that it is unclear to me what the A&M coaching staff has been doing. Their team received a handful of unforced personal foul penalties including one ejection. So controlling behavior clearly wasn’t taught. An undersized Rice team showed up and showed A&M how to play ball (before their players quickly learned from the lesson and trounced us, I get it) out of the gates. And when interviewed at half time (I missed the post-game interview, relevant comments would be appreciated) he showed no sign of even knowing what team he was playing. To all coaches: acknowledging your opponent’s strengths is just about the classiest thing you can do. We all want to see it more.

Anyways, my Rice Owls beat the spread by a touchdown, taught A&M how to play ball, and stayed classy. For us, that’s a win.

Instant analysis: Manziel suspended; NCAA bylaw 12.5.2.1

johnnydaveYes, that Johnny Manziel. ESPN confirmed that the NCAA and Texas A&M agreed that the defending Heisman Trophy winner will be suspended for the first half of the Aggies’ season-opener against Rice. Although the joint statement said that there was “no evidence that Manziel received payment for signing autographs,” Manziel nevertheless faces punishment because he violated NCAA bylaw 12.5.2.1. That rule prohibits student-athletes from permitting others to use the student-athletes’ names or likenesses for commercial purposes. I don’t think anyone who doesn’t subscribe to TexAgs.com disagrees that Manziel violated that rule.

In full, bylaw 12.5.2.1 provides:

After becoming a student-athlete, an individual shall not be eligible for participation in intercollegiate athletics if the individual:

(a) Accepts any remuneration for or permits the use of his or her name or picture to advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind; or

(b) Receives remuneration for endorsing a commercial product or service through the individual’s use of such product or service.

Because the NCAA has no evidence that Manziel actually received money for the thousands of autographs he signed for a few professional memorabilia dealers, it’s clear he’s being punished under the portion of subsection (a) that declares ineligible a student-athlete who “permits the use of his or her name or picture to advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind.”

The problem for the NCAA is that every student-athlete is in violation of bylaw 12.5.2.1 simply by willingly participating in college athletics. Thanks to the various licensing agreements of the NCAA and colleges, to say nothing of tickets to games, matches, and meets, every student-athlete “permits the use of his or her name or picture to advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service” simply by being a student-athlete competing in NCAA-sanctioned athletic events.

At the very least, the NCAA is guilty of selective enforcement in this instance by singling out Manziel for his violation of bylaw 12.5.2.1 when every other student-athlete also is in violation of the rule. The NCAA has three obvious options at this point: 1) lift the arbitrary and capricious Manziel suspension; 2) dissolve itself; or 3) suspend every student-athlete for the first half of the Texas A&M-Rice game.