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.