When Texas A&M plays Alabama on Saturday, there will be a crazy media circus.
Some will say it’s because of the two highly ranked programs playing so early in the season. Others will claim its because the back-to-back National Champion Crimson Tide are looking to avenge their only loss of last season. And even more will claim that it’s just a regular day in the SEC.
Those are my favorite. Relax SEC fans. Seriously.
The real reason for the circus is simple: Johnny Manziel.
Of the hundreds of cameras that will be at Kyle Stadium on Saturday, only one will have a sole focus. That focus is Johnny Football. And he, and he alone, is the reason this game matters at all.
Hear that? That’s the garbled sound you hear when Texas ‘twang meets ‘Bama bellyaching. Get used to it. It’s all you’re going to hear starting first thing tomorrow when Game Day kicks off.
Don’t believe the hype. Everyone, including the NCAA, Texas A&M, Alabama, ESPN and CBS’s broadcasting team are going to try and convince you that this game is bigger than one player.
As Craig Silver, coordinating producer for CBS’s college football coverage, told Sports Illustrated, “No matter where he is and no matter what part of the game it is, we will have a shot of it. If he’s anywhere in sight of that camera, we will catch it.”
Shout out to Craig. He gets it.
Since these two teams played last season, in a game that defined Manziel’s Heisman-winning freshman year, the gunslinger from Tyler, Texas has been the most talked about athlete in the world.
He went to an NBA Finals game this summer and that he went, how he got tickets and whether or not he should’ve been there, was the story. Lebron James played in that game—and Johnny Football got headlines.
So no, this isn’t about anyone, anything or any combination of anyones or anythings, else. This is about the James Dean of college football. A star, “student-athlete” who transcends his sport, but isn’t really allowed to, unless sanctioned by the adults cashing checks off his abilities, taking on the world and a really good defensive team, while we all watch. Shark Week can suck it.
This may be the one time, outside of the SuperBowl, a fan can watch a football game and with two words everyone would understand why they were watching. Middle-aged moms outside of Alabama don’t know or care who Nick Saban is. And he was in ‘The Blind Side’. But they have heard of Johnny Football.
He’s been everywhere. Late night talk shows, TMZ, heck all he needs now is to tweet Miley Cyrus and the entire internet will explode.*
I’ve thought long and hard about Johnny Manziel this year. Partially because he has the chance to be the first athlete in NCAA history to really stick it to the hypocrisy machine that is college athletics and partially because every sports media outlet hasn’t let so much as a week go by without talking about him.
There isn’t a full conclusion to be made about him yet.
Maybe tomorrow’s game will give some more insight into how he handles pressure. Maybe it’ll be our chance to watch his legend grow. Maybe he’ll show an appreciation for pop culture, pull a Dave Chappelle, and decide to half-ass it after things don’t go his way.**
Or maybe, he’ll just be a 20-year-old college football player who plays too fast and too loose to be contained by them big ole boys down in ‘Bama.
No matter what happens though, we’re all going to see it. And that’s the reason we were all watching in the first place.
Don’t let anyone tell you different.
Scott Christopher is a writer and comedian living in Los Angeles. Oh, and he’ll always call Connecticut home. Follow him @ScottC247
*Seriously though, I know she’s engaged, but tell me that wouldn’t be the best power couple you’ve ever seen. Two young stars that no one can stop talking about and who have done almost everything in their power to embrace Miley’s lyrics: “We run things, things don’t run we. Don’t take nothing from nobody”. If it happens, you’re welcome world—and sorry Twitter, you’re over capacity.
**Say what you want, but that’s what Chappelle did. He didn’t like the way things were going, so he bailed. That’s his right. But he should also recognize the same amount of celebrity that lead to him getting grief on stage that night in Hartford, is the same amount of celebrity that allowed him to basically steal from all of those good-natured, paying customers and fans of his that came out to support him. If he wasn’t ‘Famous Dave Chappelle from the Chappelle Show, aka I’m Rick James, bitch” there’s no way he’d get away with that. Then to put it on the audience a few nights later and talk about an entire city because of a handful of fans…he deserved every “Boo” he got while walking off that stage. Shout out to Hartford and Connecticut. Oh, and Dave, if as you suggested, “the North Koreans decide to attack” they’ll be coming for your hometown first. Hartford will help with the insurance coverage though.