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
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.