The Next A-Rod

Johnny Manziel

Johnny Football is out of control.

He’s a runaway freight train. The fat kid winning a trip inside Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Miley Cyrus getting ready to twerk.

Unstoppable.

We didn’t learn much about Johnny Manziel last year for a number of reasons. Freshman players at Texas A&M aren’t allowed to speak to the media. Manziel hadn’t yet morphed into Johnny Football. Most importantly, the college football world had only begun treating him like the guy Tim Tebow worships.

But now, Johnny Manziel is showing his true colours and they couldn’t be any uglier.

Obviously, the NCAA’s half game penalty to Manziel didn’t teach him a lesson. The slap on the wrist simply inflated Mr. Football’s ego. It confirmed his belief that he is invincible.

Time after time this off-season, Manziel has thrown the middle finger in the face of his critics. He didn’t care that he was sent home from the Manning camp. He knew it would cause an uproar going to a University of Texas frat party. He signed autographs in exchange for money even though his family is rich as holy hell.

Johnny Football don’t care because Johnny Football is above the law. At least, that’s how Johnny Football views the world.

After his performance on the field today, it is clear as to how Johnny Manziel perceives his place on this earth. He taunted a defender by pretending to sign his autograph. He celebrated on two occasions by giving the ca$h money sign with his hands.

I hate to put it in such a low brow way but Manziel is a douche bag. He isn’t just a douchebag. He is lord of the douchebags and seems perfectly happy with carrying that title.

By making reference to his recent mini scandal multiple times on national TV, Johnny Manziel is carving out his place as the next Alex Rodriguez in professional sports.

Manziel is the kind of douchebag that you can’t quite define. I’m all for taunting on the field but when Chad Ochocinco tries to bribe a referee with a dollar bill, it comes off as endearing. When Johnny For whatever reason, Manziel throws up the ca$h money sign with both hands, I’m pissed off. It’s not very hard to picture him as the dude wearing the Delta Kappa Epsilon t-shirt as a head band during college orientation week.

Douchebag.

If Manziel is able to translate his skills to the next level, he will become the NFL’s most polarizing figure. It’s incredibly simplistic to attribute his actions to “just being a kid” or “boys will be boys”. There are lots of “kids” who have been showered with praise in the manner that Johnny Manziel has without transforming into raging ego-maniacs. Tim Tebow, LeBron James and Sidney Crosby are names that immediately come to mind.

As much as people may hate LeBron James, it is not because he has that douchebaggy, A-Fraud kind of aura to him.

Sadly, Johnny Manziel gives off that vibe and it won’t serve him well moving forward. Alex Rodriguez is lucky he plays what is essentially an individual sport. As much as we hear reports that Manziel’s teammates adore him, those college kids who look up to him now will turn into grown men in the NFL.

Manziel isn’t merely enjoying the fruits of his labour at this point. He goes out of his way to flaunt his success in everyone’s faces. His ego has become the size of Barry Bonds’ head circa 2001. It’s a huge turn off.

If you look at the greatest leaders in the NFL, they aren’t frat boys who happen to play football really well. If Manziel continues down this path, ‘haters gonna hate’ will become his go to phrase on twitter.

Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin has to bench him. Benching him for a half will do a whole lot more than the NCAA’s pathetic double standard of a suspension did. He needs to take a page from Don Mattingly’s book. Yasiel Puig, who has been basking a little too hard in the glow of his own phenomenon, forced Mattingly’s hand. There were rumblings that players were getting upset and understandably so.

Puig’s ego ain’t got nothing on Johnny Football.

While Manziel’s future success is far from a guarantee, there are other things that are certainties. Professional football players won’t tolerate Manziel the way he handles that ego. The media won’t give him any breaks. Diehard football fans can be as ruthless and unforgiving as they come.

It is possible that Manziel will mature and shed this other label he is creating for himself. However, someone has to stop him in his tracks. And fast.

Because Johnny Football appears to be just getting started.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @chrisrossPTB and I will happily return the favour.

Michael Jordan Standard

Lebron James

Lebron James is the best basketball player on the planet.

So what?

Lebron may make the right plays in crunch time but, when it comes down to it, he will never be a hero. We are a society that crave great leaders and heroes that are so few and far between. We celebrate those that can rise to the occasion against all the odds and still come out on top. It’s why we love movies like Spartacus, Gladiator and Robin Hood.

Call the Lebron haters whatever you want but you can never fault them for saying Lebron James will never be Michael Jordan or even Kobe Bryant.

Forget about the different eras and the hand-checking. Don’t give Dennis Rodman the attention he seeks, Lebron would be amazing no matter what. However, what will never change from the days of gladiators to the end of time is a person’s psyche. Very few can combine the ability for greatness with that killer instinct. It doesn’t matter what game a person is playing or how that game has evolved over the course of time. What matters in this discussion is that the mental aspect of the game will always be a constant.

Whether you are celebrating or criticizing Kobe Bryant for taking a fade-away 3-pointer while he is triple-teamed, there is no denying that those are shots Lebron James is, for the most part, unwilling to take. Whether, from a basketball analytics perspective, taking the low-percentage shot is the right or wrong thing to do in the moment, to be truly great you have to be willing to do the wrong thing sometimes.

Killer Instinct. It’s something that Lebron James does not possess to the extent that Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant do.

At this point in his career, Lebron is not clutch or unclutch. He should not ever be labelled as either. The dreaded word is used far too often to define a player when most athletes fall somewhere in the meaty part of the imaginary clutch-unclutch bell curve (see Tony Romo).

Lebron can make as many clutch shots and win as many championships as he wants. It won’t change his nature and who he will always be as a person. Nothing can do that. Lebron is not a killer by trade. This is what exposes him to criticism and justifiably so. He is not a live by the sword, die by the sword kind of leader.

Fortunately for Lebron haters, to be truly great in the game of basketball, you must be a killer. Any semblance of fear or passivity won’t cut it.

Lebron supporters can thank Michael Jordan for that.

Lebron is labelled as passive by his detractors because anything less than a merciless approach is seen as weakness. There is no middle ground. As the self-proclaimed ‘King’, he is measured to a different standard. The Michael Jordan standard is a virtually impossible one for any athlete to reach yet this is how comparisons work, especially when you want to be the ‘King’. Lebron James doesn’t get compared to Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh. It’s all relative.

You think it is right for Barack Obama to be held to the same standards as Joe Biden?

It isn’t all Michael Jordan’s doing though. It is from the thousands of years of human history. Stories both of fact and fiction telling us about the warriors who became legends. In these stories, it takes a special individual to be respected for not only his actions but also for who they are as a person.

Lebron James the player is widely respected. Lebron James the person is a whole other issue.

Athletes are the modern day warriors. We hold our athletes to the standards of not only past athletes but also to the legendary warriors throughout history – Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great and so on. Warriors that we have heard and read about since we were children.

Real warriors don’t make excuses, don’t get tired and they definitely don’t ask their coach for a breather in game 1 of the NBA finals. As obvious as it is that a warrior may need a little assistance, real warriors don’t call their teammates out to the media or refer back to their Cleveland days to ensure everyone knows how much of a warrior they are being at that time. Real warriors don’t do the King Kong chest pound in game 4 of a 1st round sweep.

Most importantly, a real warrior’s burden should never be too much to carry. At least, in the eyes of everyone else, it should seem that way.

Lebron James may still become a legend in his own right. But a legend only because of God-given physical ability.

Not his mental ability.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @chrisrossPTB and I will happily return the favour.

The Everyman Star

The word ‘superstar’ is thrown around a lot these days.

In game 1 of the Denver-Golden State series, Doris Burke was foolishly anointing Ty Lawson a superstar on the rise. Doris Burke was just doing what so many analysts do. Hyperbolizing the stardom of professional athletes. Those who are only well-known to fans following the particular sport and understand that athlete’s greatness within their sport.

Ty Lawson is not even a star, much less a superstar.

Heck, I would argue that Lebron James and Kobe Bryant are the NBA’s only two true superstars. They are the only players that have a significant reach to the public beyond those who care about basketball.

Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard are stars. They will be known to the average sports fan. However, my mom is going to be utterly confused if I start a sentence involving any of those guys.

Steph Curry?

He is well be on his way to surpassing those stars and he just might be knocking on the door of legitimate superstardom. Kobe/Lebron territory and that’s no joke. Steph Curry is everything that Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant are not. He has something that none of them will ever have.

He is relatable.

No, he isn’t tiny like Muggsy Bogues. But Steph Curry isn’t imposing either. He is an unintimidating 6 foot 3, 185 pounds. He went to a small school because no one thought he was good enough. He beat the odds in a Cinderella-like fashion.

His game isn’t intimidating either. He has that silky smooth jumper we all wish we had but he can’t just pull up whenever he wants. Remember, he is not 6 foot 9. He is the opposite of physically dominating. He has crazy handles but they aren’t made for an And1 street ball mix tape in a Jamal Crawford style.

Despite the fact that his Dad, Dell Curry, played in the NBA, there is no sense of entitlement or superiority. There is no gorilla chest pounding after a slam dunk in a meaningless first round series against a relatively hapless opponent.

There is passion though. Lots of it. The man is not without personality by any means. He gets pumped in a manner that doesn’t come across as smug or arrogant. He reacts to the energy of the game the way many of us probably imagine we would as well.

Steph Curry could be this generation’s Allen Iverson, except he won’t be broke at 35. He is not the same player as Allen Iverson in any sense but his appeal to fans is similar.

He is the little engine that could.

With a bum ankle, unthinkable scoop shots, rainbow 3’s and one-handed dimes, Curry carried the Golden State Warriors to the 2nd round of the playoffs. Although their double-double machine David Lee was missing for most of the series, Curry was still able to step up and did so at the most opportune moments as only a superstar can.

Most importantly, Steph Curry is a joy to watch. There is more to his game for the average viewer than say, a Chris Paul. You don’t have to be a basketball person to appreciate what Curry does on a night-to-night basis.

He needs a championship calibre team though. No one becomes a superstar without championship runs. Multiple championship runs. Steph Curry could possibly be the scorer’s version of Steve Nash, who is a borderline superstar in his own right (Note: He is a superstar in Canada). Playing in a run and gun system that never fails to generate excitement, Curry already has a sidekick for years to come in fellow sharpshooter Klay Thompson.

With a guy like Curry, any franchise has the ability to build a team good enough to make a run a championships for years to come.

Without Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo and Jeremy Lin in the 2013 NBA playoffs, Steph Curry has become the darling of the entire league. The underdog role fits him more perfectly than, well, a glass slipper.

Steph Curry won’t be able to shake that label but that isn’t a bad thing. He will always be the little man beating the odds. As a professional athlete, it is what makes him so endearing. To think, this is just year 1 of his rise to stardom. As long as he stays healthy, he will be one of the NBA’s premier stars.

With a little bit of luck, he might be a superstar too.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @chrisrossPTB and I will happily return the favour.

Lacking ‘It’

Tony Romo

It is official. Tony Romo is the ultimate tease.

He has the entire package, plays for the flashiest of flashy teams yet falls short of sealing the deal.

For his entire career, Tony Romo has dealt with the same old, same old – he can’t perform in the clutch. For a long time, a lot of the criticism that went Romo’s way seemed a bit too much. What is always hard for Romo is that because he dates Jessica Simpson, plays for Jerry Jones and likes to smile, people want him to fail.

Whether it is justified or not, like Lebron James in his first two seasons with Miami, fans and analysts will nitpick at anything they can find for a player they may dislike. Unlike Lebron, the disdain people have for Tony Romo the man, not the player, feels unjustified.

It is not easy being a Romo defender. I know because I’ve been doing it for quite a while now. As hot as he can get, his play will make you shiver more often than it should. I wouldn’t go as far to say that Tony Romo has the choke gene.

Rather, it is more that he doesn’t have the clutch gene.

Too frequently is the term clutch or choke thrust on a player. Most guys are probably somewhere in the middle while the odds of their big game circumstances have simply gone either in their favour or against them, prompting them to be labelled clutch or a choker.

Over the last two December’s, prior to last night’s game against the Redskins, Tony Romo had thrown 20 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. A choker doesn’t have the ability to bring his team from the depths of despair in big moments as often as Romo has. Even though his January record is virtually non-existent, he hasn’t faltered in some of the tougher situations throughout his career.

The thing is, it is as if it is in Romo’s DNA to make huge mistakes at huge moments.

Tony Romo had another John Elway type of opportunity on Sunday night with all eyes on him. Down 3 points, on his own 15 yard line, 3 minutes to go and a touchdown likely being enough put his team into the playoffs.

Simple, right?

Anyone can muff a hold on a field goal or throw a costly interception. But Tony Romo is a quarterback who, time after time, has let his team down with the kind of blunder that it is almost fitting for number 9.

That isn’t to say that Tony Romo can’t win a few playoff games or have one of those career defining drives in a championship game. If Romo ever does have a career defining drive, play or game, that moment should never be something that transforms his imperfect legacy into something that it does not deserve to be.

To a lesser degree, Peyton Manning lacks ‘it’. He doesn’t have what his brother has proven to have. Peyton won a Super Bowl MVP but it wasn’t a stellar performance by any means. Peyton Manning has become arguably the greatest quarterback of his generation not through his ability to be his best when everything is on the line but through his immense talent and smarts.

Tony Romo doesn’t have Peyton’s talent or smarts. Nevertheless, he can and has come up big in big situations because he has the elite talent that allows him to do spectacular things. However, he isn’t so good that he doesn’t suffer from a recurring case of major gaffe-itis.

Romo made the poorest of poor reads to give Rob Jackson a season killing interception. Despite the timing of the miscalculated floater, the interception wasn’t due to Tony Romo’s choking. That play was a microcosm of his career as Romo is a player who doesn’t have the capability to consistently step up when the stakes are highest.

It isn’t choke or clutch. It is who Tony Romo is.

Lebron James overcame his perceived choking propensity last season. There is nothing to say that Tony Romo can’t do the same.

What will never change with Tony Romo is that he doesn’t have what every athlete wished they had or chooses to believe they have.

‘It’.

Agree? Disagree? E-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com or reply in the comments section below.

Also, you can follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

Importance of Stars in NBA

The Indiana Pacers had the Miami Heat on the ropes but couldn’t finish them off. They set themselves up for a storybook ending. Alas, it was not meant to be.

How typical.

The Pacers were outmatched. Much like a boxer without that knockout punch or a closer without a strikeout pitch, the Pacers needed something more. They just didn’t have it though. Larry Bird’s squad is another prime example of the necessity of having a star player in order to win meaningful games in the NBA.

Balance alone doesn’t cut it in this league.

The Heat should never have been seen as on the ropes by so many people (yes, guilty as charged). Not when they feature 2 of the best players on the planet while the Pacers feature player is a fringe all-star center. Indiana didn’t go soft in game 6. They couldn’t bring their game up a couple of notches like the Heat were able to.

It’s no secret that star players are important. They are almost as vital to NBA playoff life as oxygen is for human beings. However, not every team can have a star and those without at least one would like to think that they can survive. Unfortunately, that’s usually not the case.

It’s not as if balanced teams cannot fight with the big boys of the league. If anything, they are even scrappier because they have something to prove. The Pacers gave the Heat a great fight. I would have paid to see 12 rounds of that. The Denver Nuggets took Kobe Bryant and his two giants to 7 hard-fought games. Philadelphia themselves have a legitimate shot at the Eastern Conference Finals. The 76ers hardly qualify though considering their road up to this point has been littered with the fallen soldiers of their opponents.

These teams can make it only so far.

Basketball isn’t a game that invites parity, largely due to the requirement of stars. Only 9 teams have won an NBA championship in the past 30 years and 3 of those teams have 1 lone championship banner hanging in their arena over that span. Of those 30 teams who have won championships, only the 2004 Detroit Pistons lacked anything close to a star player.

When the chips are down, a championship team must a guy or two that they can hand the ball over to. Even the 2004 Detroit Pistons had Chauncey Billups who is known around the league as Mr. Big Shot.

The Pacers didn’t have anyone like that this year. Danny Granger was an emerging NBA star not too long ago. He was unable to bring that star power to the Heat series for even 1 game and because of that the Pacers were doomed. The Heat superstars simply brought it after game 3 and the balanced roster of the Pacers couldn’t handle it.

The Orlando Magic ownership know that winning in the NBA is as star driven as any professional sports league in the world. That’s why they have made every possible concession that they could to appease Dwight Howard. Like a kid trying to impress the cool kids in high school, they tried a little too hard though. However, the reasoning behind their actions is completely understandable.

Fan bases without stars to boast of have to believe that a no-name roster can take down the Goliath’s of the NBA world. In a league where there is very little fluctuation among the top teams, hope is sometimes all they have.

Hope and belief just aren’t enough though.

The Thunder, Heat and Spurs all meet the criteria of possessing a star player. Oklahoma City has Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Miami has Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. San Antonio has Tony Parker to go along with aging stars in Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli. If the Boston Celtics do indeed push through the injuries to the Conference Finals then that would mean the 4 teams left in the 2012 playoffs would have the pre-requisite star needed to win a championship.

It’s no different than having a top-flight quarterback in the NFL. Still, the NFL has not only had much more parity in the past 30 years than the NBA but there have also been more Super Bowl winners that have lacked the supposed essential piece of the puzzle.

Stars trump balance in the NBA unlike any other league.

The Pacers, well, they did the best that they could.

You can follow me on Twitter @paintstheblack and subscribe to Painting the Black to get the latest posts.

Agree? Disagree? You can also E-mail Chris at cross_can15@hotmail.com or reply in the comments section below.

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