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.

All-American Noise

Manti Te'o

Last summer, “it was say it ain’t so, Joe!” Now, it’s “say it ain’t so, Te’o!”

Who are you supposed to trust anymore?

Some girls have daddy issues. Some kids have abandonment issues. Sports fans are now developing trust issues that are worse than they ever have been before.

Forget about performance enhancing drugs for a moment because no one ever really liked those guys, juice or no juice. Barry Bonds was a bigger diva than Mariah Carey. Alex Rodriguez had a certain smugness and arrogance that became even more apparent when he began fielding on the left side of the infield with Derek Jeter. Lance Armstrong was a ruthless sociopath.

Prior to the confirmation of those noted steroid users, aside from the naive Lance Armstrong backers, we already knew that we weren’t supposed to like them. They weren’t respected and revered for their persona. They were respected and revered for their freakish physical abilities. Abilities that turned out to be a little too freakish to be true.

As I wrote in August, the prominent use of steroids is leading fans to jump to the most skeptical of conclusions when great moments in sports are witnessed. Despite the awe factor not being as awe-inspiring as it was 15 years ago, sports fans would always have the good guys to root for. There are people who could be role models for kids and show us that decency and integrity is still left out in the world.

That constant is going away too.

It has been well documented that Manti Te’o was the embodiment of the perfect student-athlete. He was the team leader and the driving force behind the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Te’o visited sick children in the hospital, stayed up all night to talk with his cancer-ridden “girlfriend” on the phone and he played his heart out despite the death of his grandmother and girlfriend on the same day.

Manti Te’o was the ideal Heisman Trophy candidate. He provided inspiration to what I’m sure amounted to, at the very least, thousands of people across North America. In a college football off-season saturated with the horrifying story of Jerry Sandusky and Penn State, Manti Te’o was the anti-Jerry Sandusky. If Jerry Sandusky was everything that is wrong with this world, Manti Te’o was everything that is right with this world.

Everyone bought into the Manti Te’o narrative. Hook, line and sinker. How could we not?

It has been said that the media should have been more diligent. There had to be someone who should have seen the red flags. But that wasn’t the case and it shouldn’t have been the case.

This wasn’t your 37-year-old cousin who still lives in the basement of his mom’s home. When he tells you that he has a girlfriend, maybe you don’t start planning bachelor party. However, when the Mormon all-American linebacker Manti Te’o tells you he has a girlfriend, there is no reason to question it. In the world of sports, who could have been more trustworthy than Manti Te’o was just a few short days ago?

Thanks to the good people at Deadspin, it will be hard for us to fully trust ever again.

We don’t know what Manti Te’o has done. It’s difficult to believe his story when it takes him 2 days and a private interview with an ESPN yes man to tell the “truth.” For all we know, Manti Te’o could go all George Costanza on us and speak out saying “it’s not a lie, if you believe it.” What we do know though is that Manti Te’o hasn’t done anything illegal or malicious to harm another human being.

Nevertheless, we also know that Manti Te’o is no longer the man you want your daughter to bring home. He isn’t the Ray Lewis of college football. Those leadership qualities that were supposed to separate him from other NFL prospects, is complete bogus. Manti Te’o isn’t the guy we thought he was.

What is most unfortunate though is that the next, pre-fake girlfriend saga, Manti Te’o type character to dominate the sports headlines will be met with more cynic’s than he ever would have been before the events over the last calendar year occurred. This is the case because the last people we would contemplate doing any wrong, the people that we put on a pedestal, have ruined our faith.

Joe Paterno and Manti Te’o are two of the most recent prominent sports figures to go from idol to rock bottom in the span of 24 hours. Except, whether it was dramatically or quietly, they haven’t been the only ones to disappoint us. Tiger Woods was chased out of his house by his wife with a 9-iron. Derek Jeter gave swag bags to his one-night stands. Steve Nash cheated on his pregnant wife with a woman who was almost half his age.

I still love Derek Jeter, Steve Nash and Tiger Woods. They’re just too damn likeable. But they aren’t the ultimate good guys that they were portrayed to be.

It’s the cold reality of celebrity and over the past couple of years sports fans have tasted this very bitter reality. The vast expansion of media over the last decade has placed these figures in the brightest of spotlights. We don’t like to think of them as human beings but that is what they are, flawed and everything.

The all-American model is a standard that so few can reach and to expect that out of athletes who have been thrust into the center of attention is ridiculous, yet we carry on with this practice. What has happened is that social media and the paparazzi has created a world where we can no longer be ignorantly blissful towards the celebrities that we have placed this god-like status upon.

Alexander Pope once said that “to err is human, to forgive is divine.” Over the years, the public has, for the most part, proven itself to be very forgiving of sports figures that have chosen the wrong path. However, to continue trusting them in the first place?

That’s a whole other matter.

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

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

Straight Up Bull

Bill O'Brien

To believe anything that a prominent public figure says these days would be naive. Charlie Brown believing that Lucy won’t pull the football away when he tries to kick it naive.

For some reason though, I think we all wanted to believe Bill O’Brien when he stated that he was “committed for the long term to Penn State.” After what was possibly the most tragic scandal in sports history, Bill O’Brien was promising something more than winning football games to not only the men at Penn State but every loyal supporter of the program in Happy Valley.

He was promising hope.

Hope is exactly what Bill O’Brien gave Penn State this year. He walked into a situation worse than what anyone could have had nightmares about and made the Nittany Lions respectable again. Respectable wasn’t expected right away but Bill O’Brien somehow managed to do it. He promised hope and he delivered.

At least for one year he did.

However, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Bill O’Brien is now rumoured to be considering interviews for the many vacant NFL head coaching positions following the dreaded Black Monday.

Even though this shouldn’t be a surprise, I think we all expected more out of Bill O’Brien. Given the circumstances, it wouldn’t be fair to the young men that he promised hope to and it wouldn’t be fair to everyone who thought Bill O’Brien was being genuine when he said he was completely on board to reviving Penn State football.

Bill O’Brien has shown us that he is no different than most any other high level professional head coach in North America.

All of these head coaches preach commitment, brotherhood and loyalty. They expect the players to buy into these things that they preach but in the end it is all just garbage they spew out for their selfish gains. Their ultimate goal is not to help mold teenagers into young men or fight the good fight with their players as if they were brothers. It is simply a means of furthering themselves in the cutthroat world of professional coaching.

It is more of a do as I say, not as I do kind of thing. Get the players to buy in. That’s all that really matters.

Bill O’Brien said what he said because he knew he had to. There was no other way he was going to convince the current players at Penn State not to jump ship. But to look those young men in the eye and tell them that he was going to be in it for the long haul with them is plain old disgusting. This was a disaster for the ages and Bill O’Brien is choosing to ignore the unique situation in favour of me, myself and I.

Whether he decides to interview for an NFL job or not is irrelevant. The fact that it has gone public that he is even considering it is enough to prove that he is no different than any other selfish professional head coach.

You know, the ones who portray themselves to be family men but in actuality spend 18 hours a day working, never seeing their wife or kids. What about the college coaches that tell their superstar player they would be better served staying the extra year in school (I’m looking at you Pete Carroll).

I should have learned by now that the circumstances of their program or team is not important. Coaches will say whatever it takes to get ahead in the game. They can’t practice what they preach because so much of what comes out of their mouths is a bunch of blinkin’ fertilizer. A coaches supposed steadfast commitment to their current team and players is about as trustworthy as the National Enquirer.

They are committed to themselves.

If someone in Bill O’Brien’s shoes is willing to say he is in it for the “long term” and that he would do everything in his power to “help guide the University forward to become a national leader in ethics, compliance and operational excellence” then pretty much everything is fair game.

Bill O’Brien has every right to explore his options as an NFL coach but it’s not as if those opportunities won’t be there down the line for him.

Is Lane Kiffin really that much worse than any of these other guys? Lane Kiffin doesn’t give a damn about anyone except for himself but he is just not as subtle about his overt selfishness. Really, none these coaches give a damn about anyone else.

So the next time you hear a coach speaking about dedication, loyalty and commitment, call it out for what it is.

Bullshit.

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

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

Joe Paterno — Trapped By Legacy

Legacy and reputation.

So much stock is put into how a public figure will be remembered after he has retired. Because of this reality, most individuals will do as much as they can to ensure they are seen in a good light when all has been said and done.

Joe Paterno was duped by this reality.

Damning evidence from the Freeh Report came out today concluding that JoePa and other Penn State officials decided to conceal the child sex abuse claims against Jerry Sandusky. The Freeh Report leaves virtually no doubt to Joe Paterno’s involvement, or lack thereof, in the whole Sandusky fiasco.

Reputation destroyed. Legacy destroyed.

Joe Paterno was beloved not only in the state of Pennsylvania but around the United States by the time 1998 rolled around. He was beloved for the football program he ran. He was beloved for the way he molded teenagers into men. He was beloved for creating an environment that any parent would be happy to send their child to.

This was the Penn State way.

Then, the allegations surfaced. The Freeh Report states that Joe Paterno and Penn State officials knew about Sandusky’s crimes in 1998 and 2001 but they didn’t do a damn thing about it.

Joe Paterno was selfishly thinking of his reputation, his legacy.

Joe Paterno didn’t do the right thing in 1998 because Jerry Sandusky’s shortcomings had the potential to burst the bubble of Penn State’s pristine reputation. Jerry Sandusky rose through the ranks from the very beginning of Joe Paterno’s reign as head coach in 1966. By 1998, Sandusky had been part of Paterno’s program for over 30 years. To nail Sandusky in 1998 would have possibly meant a black mark on Joe Paterno’s aura of greatness. At least, that’s the way Paterno must have seen it.

He had worked for over 30 years to create one of the most storied programs in all of College Football. JoePa wasn’t going to let his disturbed, long-time assistant coach get in the way of that so he let him off the hook. Not coincidentally, Sandusky was no longer coaching at Penn State after the 1999 season. Amazingly, it wasn’t until the 2001 allegations that Penn State officials banned Sandusky from bringing children to campus. They still didn’t report him to the child welfare authorities though.

It’s hard to imagine any person with a soul enabling Sanduksy to do the horrible things that he did. However, when reputation and legacy are on the line for a public figure as adored as Joe Paterno, it is a little easier to imagine. Just a little…

Sports icons are such an important part of society but too much significance is placed on their legacy and reputation. These icons and heroes want to be thought of and remembered as people who made a positive difference in both the sports and real world. Few had made as big a difference as Paterno had in his years in charge of the Nittany Lions football program.

In large part due to the media and fans obsession with lifetime status, too much emphasis is put on the legacy and reputation of our sports figures.

It takes away their focus from the now. It can cloud their judgement. Clearly it did for JoePa.

Related: What Else Should We Expect?

By no means is that a valid excuse for Joe Paterno. As a human being living on earth, it was his duty to report Jerry Sandusky to the proper authorities. But he didn’t do what he should have at the time because he was worried about how he would be perceived in the future.

In 2001, when graduate assistant Mike McQueary saw Sandusky in a campus shower with a boy, it was too late. Joe Paterno and Penn State were in too deep. After covering up the Sandusky accusations in 1998, to do anything at that point would have ruined them faster than Bernie Madoff.

To report Sandusky would have obviously been the right choice but Joe Paterno was only thinking of himself. He was thinking about how this scandal would reflect on him. Burying the problem and hoping it would go away was the answer if he wanted to maintain his good standing with the public.

There may not have been evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to send Roger Clemens to jail. Nevertheless, it appears as though he was willing to lie to congress in order to keep his good reputation. He likely committed a felony simply to uphold his legacy. Roger Clemens couldn’t bear the thought of the public viewing him differently.

Brett Favre is often criticized for the way he handled his retirement. In the eyes of many, his legacy is tarnished. But Favre didn’t care about that when he was playing/retiring. He didn’t care and it allowed him to have one of the greatest seasons a quarterback could ever dream of at the tender age of 40.

Comparing Favre’s situation to Paterno’s may seem kind of ridiculous. Yes, the magnitude of their circumstances aren’t even on the same scale but there are similar principles. As indecisive as he was, Brett Favre did what he felt was right at the risk of his legacy and was rewarded for it.

Joe Paterno swept aside what was right in favour of his legacy.

Everyone had Joe Paterno up on a pedestal, including himself. Apparently, the possibility of tainting that image even slightly was enough reason to cover up a child sex abuse scandal.

There are still some diehard Penn State fans who are struggling with the undeniable evidence against Joe Paterno. It’s difficult for them. They don’t want their beloved hero to be remembered like this. They don’t want to remember Joe Paterno like this.

It’s the sad truth about the sports world. The importance of legacy and reputation can trump all.

No matter the cost.

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 me at cross_can15@hotmail.com or reply in the comments section below.

BCS Slippery Slope

The previous BCS system was flawed.

It was a system most of us were not willing to live with. A playoff system was necessary to bring absolute fairness to the world of College Football.

College Football fans across the country have gotten their wish. It was announced yesterday that, starting in 2014, a 4-team, seeded playoff system will be implemented pending approval of the university presidents who serve on the BCS committee. Like Kim Kardashian’s divorce to Kris Humphries, this is an inevitable conclusion to a controversy that could only be resolved with one solution.

What next though?

By finally giving in and moving to a playoff format, the NCAA has created a slippery slope that will get steeper and steeper as the years go on.

The critics to the unfairness of the current BCS system have been silenced but for how long? As I’m sure people will realize, this newly proposed playoff system is far from perfect. With only 2 additional teams gaining the opportunity to play for a national championship, the controversy surrounding the top teams will not be eliminated.

The playoff format that is to be put in place in 2014 is supposed to bring “transparency” to the decision process. Something that is obviously missing with the BCS system. It appears that the 4 playoff teams will be chosen by a selection committee who intend to choose the best 4 teams, with a strong consideration given to conference champions.

At this point in time, it all sounds like sunshine and lollipops. However, it’s hard to believe that this supposed greater transparency will do away with a significant amount of controversy. Teams excluded from the playoffs will continue to feel jobbed, believing they deserved the chance to fight for a national championship.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in reference to the new playoff format that “it won’t satisfy everyone…until you have an 8-team or 16-team seeded playoff, there will be folks out there that aren’t completely satisfied.”

8 teams? 16 teams?

Thus begins, the irrelevancy of the regular season.

An increased playoff format has the potential to completely compromise the integrity of the regular season. An integrity that, for the better, has separated it from its brother NCAA cash cow, college basketball.

The BCS system may have been flawed but the system lent itself to generating an incredible amount of public interest. Unlike college basketball, the regular season means, or meant, so much more in college football. Interest equals ratings and the attention the college football regular season received was always immense.

Anything more than a 4-team postseason format could be detrimental to the unique dynamic of a college football regular season. The thing is, a 4-team system will satisfy the many, who have been clamouring to change the BCS system, for only so long. The eventual expansion of this proposed 4-team set-up to 8 or 16 teams is about as predictable as the sun setting in the west.

College football and basketball is big business. The business of college football will be affected very negatively if the NCAA decides to adopt a larger playoff format at some point in the future. Each week, the possibility of a Goliath being slayed by a David is magnified because of the fact that losing just 1 game in a season can abolish the hope of playing in the national championship game. That is not so much with the new system, especially so if college football continues to expand the number of playoff teams in the future. Division II Appalachian State defeating number 5 seed Michigan, so what? At least, with an expanded playoff system, so what.

Does college football want 2 or 3 weeks of its season be relevant or virtually every single week?

The die-hard fans will be there no matter what but it’s the casual fans that bring in the dough. Outside of March Madness, college football has a lot more casual fans than college basketball. The importance of every game in the regular season means that anyone can sit down on any given Saturday and perhaps watch a game with serious implications.

A March Madness style single-game elimination playoff undoubtedly takes away from the lure of college football’s week-to-week excitement to a certain extent. The more playoff teams, the less the excitement.

Moreover, the slippery slope BCS commissioners have put themselves on with this decision is not only bad for business but it also ignores the issue of player safety. NCAA players do not get paid and forcing players to play extra games before even reaching a level where they can be compensated fairly is borderline heartless.

Yes, a 4-team playoff system means extra games for only 2 teams but must I repeat myself again?

Where does the expansion of teams stop? 8? 16? 32? More teams and, obviously, more players, sooner or later, will be needlessly required to play additional games. Yeah, that has to be the ideal situation for player safety.

Potentially compromising the ability for these kids to either play professional football or simply live an active post-football life with unnecessary extra games is a scary thought. Career and life threatening injuries happen in football. Of course, a player can get hurt at anytime but why increase those odds with more games?

The Conference Commissioners decided on drastic change to the landscape of college football. The new 4-team playoff system resolves some of the issues plaguing the BCS but by no means does it solve everything.

This slope might soon get very slippery and if it does, the switch to a playoff system could hurt college football more than most could have ever anticipated.

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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