Saturday, August 10, 2013

Cut From a Different Cloth

Years ago on Nickelodeon, there was a show known as "All That". It spawned many different characters. You had Pierre Escargot, the bath-taking Frenchman. You had Repairman Man, who ironically broke everything. But the one that stands out to me the most as of late is a series of sketches known as "Pete and Flem". The sketches compared a model citizen (Pete) with a complete slob (Flem).

Right now, there could be a similar series of sketches in the SEC called "A.J and Johnny." After you get past the fact that both are SEC college quarterbacks with tattoos and very attractive girlfriends, the similarities end.

Google, like Twitter, is a very powerful thing. It is the most well-known search engine on the internet. If you type in "AJ McCarron", the first link you see after his Wikipedia is "AJ McCarron: Most consistent QB in FBS". If you type in "Johnny Manziel", the first link you see is "Attorney predicts Manziel will start against Rice". You see where this is going?

In the two years McCarron has been the Tide's starter, he has led his team to a 25-2 record along with two BCS National Championships and a BCS Championship MVP award. He's passed for 5,567 yards, 46 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. If you type the phrase "A.J. McCarron controversy", multiple stories pop up about a so-called controversial tweet McCarron had after no-showing the Espys:

"Your right I'm not at the espys! I don't have to be at an award show to know what my team did. I'm back at school working to get another #16." - @10AJMcCarron

Personally, I don't see what's wrong with it. So the senior signal-caller didn't take advantage of a free trip to L.A. to schmooze with other athletes and celebrities. He simply expressed that he needs no affirmations of what he and his team accomplished from anyone outside the "Roll Tide" world. And what was so important that he couldn't make it? Oh that's right. He was busy working towards a possible third BCS Championship in a row.

On the other hand, you have Johnny "Football" Manziel. After being the first college football player to ever win the Heisman award as a freshman, he has been nothing short of polarizing. You either admire his unpredictable nature or look down on it. There is no "in-between" when it comes to Manziel. After stories of bar fights, court-side seats, no-showing NFL quarterback passing camps and tweeting about his anticipation of leaving College Station, the rising sophomore QB's latest situation has seen him accused of accepting money for signing autographed helmets. Didn't he learn from Ohio State and Terell Pryor?

About the only thing Manziel can claim over McCarron is A&M's win over 'Bama last year, and the fact he ran for 1,410 yards in one season to AJ's career total of -42 yards. Yes, the dash before the four is supposed to be there.

ESPN has dedicated Tim Tebow/Dwight Howard levels of attention to this story, and rightfully so. From June to now, the college football scene outside of respective conference media days is rather slow. Everyone wants to know if Manziel will play at all this season. To which I say- they're missing the point.

It's been speculated by some that it would be very hard to find hard evidence that Manziel expected to be reimbursed financially for his services. Once you get past that, even if "Johnny Football" were to start against Rice (and the rest of the season for that matter), how effective would he be? Could he block out the media circus and negative connotations fans have about him currently and look as dominant as he did last season? While repeating as Heisman winner is nearly impossible (what's up, Archie Griffin?), doing so as a sophomore would be even more of a stretch. To bring in all this negative attention and expect the same, if not better results? Get real.

One argument being made for Johnny is that "he's just a college kid". I won't condemn him from taking advantage of the attention he has received at such a young age. If he and his family have the money to pay for court-side NBA seats and other perks, then so be it. But if the money used to finance these extravagant outings is from illegal autograph signings, that's where it differs for me. While I would not be opposed to athletes being reimbursed if the rules are changed at some point in the future, the fact remains at this current time a player can not accept money while still in school.

There is no Heisman Contract. Nothing in writing says one has to be a role model or do things the right way just because they won the sport's most prized individual award. It's not a humanitarian award, after all. But if one does manage to take home that accolade, regardless of their age, they are held to higher standards and expectations- and, like Kirk Herbstreit pointed out recently- they should realize the microscope their every move (and tweet) is under.

While Johnny and his camp focus on getting the Autograph-Gate mess untangled in time for him to focus solely on football, McCarron and Alabama will be in full swing, having been working towards a Three-Peat all summer long.

Manziel can't hide behind the "just a college kid" excuse for long- especially while another college kid in A.J. McCarron is quietly winning consecutive championships and cementing his legacy at Alabama.

Like it? Love it? Hate it? Contact me on Twitter @SeanNeutron.

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