OPINION: The villan pecking order
Manziel doesn't compare to college football's true bad guys
Published: Friday, September 6, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 6, 2013 00:09
To the general public, and to several college football writers who touched on it in the past week, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is a villain.
Think Scar in Disney’s The Lion King — hungry for a higher position and willing to do whatever it takes to get there.
While I don’t buy into this narrative, I can hear a host of East Coast sports fans claiming, “That spoiled Jaaahny Manzeel is a frickin’ bum.”
Those are the type of folks forcing horns on Johnny’s head and placing a pitchfork into his Heisman-clutching claws. It’s out of our hands and into those of the people who control so much of our sports world today: the media and fans from the highest populated regions of our country.
But did taunting a player in garbage time and spurring the NCAA on a rule that we all agree shouldn’t exist warrant this kind of response? Surely Manziel could have acted differently in so many of his off the field (and now on the field) actions but this — this seems the most overblown of them all. This coming from the same guy who sent Manziel out the door after an ill-advised tweet this summer.
But in comparison to college football’s most hated characters in history, Manziel’s actions may seem minuscule.
• Miami University and “The U”, 1980s – Jimmy Johnson took over as head coach in 1984 and quickly turned the Hurricanes into a group of stellar athletes with few rules. It quickly became the “it” school and with it came allegations of crime and drug use along with pay-for-play scandal from a rap artist. The Miami players embraced the mentality of being bad and many hated them for it.
• Brian Bosworth, Oklahoma linebacker, 1984-86 – Bosworth reveled in the bad boy role. Confidently cocky he sported a mohawk before they became faux’s and was banned from the 1987 Orange Bowl for steroid use. His play in the pro game didn’t help his cause toward backing up his antics but in his prime Bosworth was one of the most feared tacklers of his college football era.
• Maurice Clarett, Ohio State running back, 2002 – As a true freshman Clarett led the Buckeyes to an overtime upset victory for the National Championship against Miami in 2002. From there it was all downhill as he publicly bashed school officials, was accused of cheating in school and eventually dismissed from the university. Clarett left a bad taste in most college football fans mouths. One that has hardly faded.
• Cam Newton, Auburn quarterback, 2010 – Initially a Florida Gator, Newton was arrested for stealing a laptop as a freshman. By way of Blinn College he then became a National Champion at Auburn. What marred Newton’s fame was allegations of his father accepting large amounts of money for his collegiate services. The allegations were never proven once he bolted for the NFL but Newton’s name was the first to come up alongside Manziel when he was accused of being paid for autographs.
• Nick Saban, Alabama head coach, 2007-present – Nick Saban has never been involved in criminal charges or cheating, but he is one of college football’s most hated men. Why? All the Alabama headman does is win football games that generated the friendly nickname of “Nick Satan.” Whether it was at LSU or Alabama he could retire as the most accomplished college football coach of all-time. Some people may not want that title taken away from Paul “Bear” Bryant and that’s exactly why so many can’t stand him. You’ll find few who don’t respect him though.
• The Bowl Championship Series, a.k.a. “The BCS” – Since 1998, at the infancy of the digital era, computers have decided what two teams will play for a national championship in any given season. Can you see why this system became the ugliest kid in the history of ugly people? Ask fans of Florida State (2000), Nebraska (2001) and USC (2003) how they feel about computers deciding they didn’t qualify despite finishing No. 1 in the human polls each respective year. While the BCS is on it’s way out, it may be seen as a worse bully-villain combo than any player who ever actually played the game.
Dig deep enough into the archives of the Internet and you can find many details but when we search Johnny Manziel’s name 10, maybe 20, years from now what will he be remembered for?
While many try to change who Manziel is, wanting him to be more like Florida’s Tim Tebow or more like a Manning brother, I hope he isn’t remembered for an autograph gesture or taunting in garbage time.
Those aren’t villainous acts. Cheating the game, jail time and pay-for-play allegations turn you from good to evil.
I hope Manziel is instead remembered as the first freshman quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy. A player so fearlessly captivating that he played with a will to win that made ages 12 to 70 say, “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
By my call, Manziel can continue to play with the same edge and fire he showed a week ago. That same competitive nature led him to college football’s 2013 Mount Rushmore a year ago and it’s why his teammates love him as the quarterback of this Aggie squad.
Let those who feel offended continue to do so, because if that spark from Manziel continues, he’ll leave College Station as the most memorable and accomplished player ever given the “villain” tag in college football and you might look back actually enjoying what you witnessed.