New characters have been introduced into the Johnny Manziel reality show that is the 2013 college football season. The latest is AJ McCarron, an unwitting — if not unwilling — foil in the ongoing Johnny drama.
That McCarron had to explicitly state he wasn’t insulting Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel after specifically stating he wouldn’t talk about Johnny Manziel is a testament to how absurd this saga has become.
A lesson everyone should have learned as a child is that trying to decode hidden messages only results in disappointment:
The Sept. 14 rematch of the Alabama Crimson Tide and A&M, the only team that beat it in 2012, needs no gimmicks. Alas, the biggest game of college football’s first month is quickly becoming yet another reality show attraction.
As I drove home on Saturday afternoon, I listened to Heisman voter Steve Hartman declare over the national airwaves of FOX Sports Radio that “the jealousy” was “dripping off” McCarron.
Bear in mind that McCarron is the starting quarterback of the two-time defending national champions, girlfriend Katherine Webb appeared in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and on a major network reality show, and his NFL draft stock is soaring.
Needless to say, I would have seen my own brain if I had rolled my eyes anymore. Nevertheless, the road to College Station on that mid-September Saturday is only going to get increasingly silly until kickoff.
When Manziel and McCarron tweeted about hanging out together in the spring, jokes flew around the internet about the prospects of a reality show that meeting offered. Those hoping for a bromance of Rob & Big proportions are instead getting the stereotypical, contrived rivalry. And like on most TV series, the “reality” of their rivalry is contrived.
Manziel’s unique presence in college football is creeping into all facets of the game. SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala. become Johnny Manziel Media Days, with reporters peppering coaches and players with questions about the Aggie quarterback — some of whom have yet to play A&M and won’t in 2013.
One such team is South Carolina. The Gamecocks have their own transcendent star in Jadeveon Clowney, who, unlike McCarron, actually did call out other players; by name, no less. Tajh Boyd and Aaron Murray may be legitimate Heisman contenders, but evidently they’re not Johnny Manziel, as Clowney’s slights have not generated nearly the same controversy as McCarron’s non-insults.
No, Clowney and outspoken head coach Steve Spurrier largely avoided discussion of Manziel. And yet, comments were made that seemed to insinuate something about Manziel.
Spurrier said of Clowney, “Jadeveon has done an excellent job staying out of the limelight allsummer. He’s been a good teammate. He’s been there for the workouts. He’s been there doing what he’s supposed to do.”
I’ll admit that initially, I too got caught up. My initial thought was that Spurrier was implicitly referencing Manziel’s off-season of online classes, courtside NBA seats, celebrity Instagrams and Twitter outbursts. It all felt a bit like watching a confessional segment from the Real World house.
Of course, Spurrier is not the type to mince words. But that momentary assumption he was alluding to Manziel is a testament to how prominent the quarterback’s become.
Some have gone so far as to say Manziel’s attention is unprecedented. While the way in which he is covered is different, he’s hardly the first college football player to command such a glaring spotlight.
Virtually every reality show that hits airwaves now is a derivative of something that has already been done. Similarly, facets of the Manziel show are reminiscent of another college football reality series that dominated print and webpages as well as airwaves a year ago.
Last year in Hollywood at Pac-12 media day, I watched as herds of reporters circled around USC Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin and quarterback Matt Barkley. USC ended the previous on an impressive streak, which included a road win over a BCS title contender. Sound familiar?
Barkley’s movie star good looks and previous season’s performance made him the quintessential star for the college football season. But a funny thing happened on the Trojans’ way to a national championship…
The win in a seemingly unconquerable location (Autzen Stadium) the previous November, the return of a star quarterback and a few notable key pieces like Marqise Lee, Robert Woods and Nickell Robey made some lose sight of the many losses USC sustained. Likewise, Manziel captains an Aggie team that loses standout offensive lineman Luke Joeckel and several leaders on the defensive side.
The Aggies should avoid a meltdown similar to USC’s 7-6 2012. A&M plays a weak non-conference schedule and avoids the best of the SEC East. Still, Sept. 14 could begin the end of the Johnny Manziel reality series. The hype will seem like a distant memory, and national attention will turn elsewhere — maybe to AJ McCarron?