On Johnny Manziel, ‘The Truman Show’ & Allen Iverson’s Foreshadowing Advice

Johnny Manziel entered that rarefied air of “polarizing athlete” the moment he beat out Manti Te’o and Manti Te’o’s lovely, invisible lady for the Heisman. The legend of “Johnny Football” became a national craze after Texas A&M’s baptism of Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl.

Today, the kid known as “Johnny Football” sat in front of a whopping 1,200 media credential members and answered questions, many of which centered around his off-field behavior, including the most emphasis placed his early exit from the Manning Passing Academy. The kid seemed to handle everything in stride blowing off claims he was hungover at the camp and reverted attention back to the upcoming season stating, “My offseason, all the stuff’s that’s gone on will have no effect on this season. I’m ready to stop. No more talk after this. Let’s play football.”

Both sides of the coin on the talk surrounding Johnny Heisman are easily understandable. Those who aren’t fond of the guy can likely list a couple hundred reasons why Manziel and his attitude leads to punching holes in walls every time he appears on TV.

He’s unappreciative. He’s the second coming of Tebow, only if Tebow actually had sex in college (which I’m not convinced didn’t happen). He’s a flash in the pan. He’s immature. He’s college football’s Justin Bieber. He’s just like Wale in the fact responding to negative tweets is some sort of oxymoronic aphrodisiac. The “he’s only 20 and a college student” excuse only goes so far because of the role he’s casted to play. To a degree, it all makes perfect sense.

Flip the coin, and, well, the kid is only 20-years-old preparing for his second year playing college football and his life is suddenly the newest installment of The Truman Show. Much of what he’s been scrutinized for has been anything worth crucifying.

Steve Kerr threw him under the bus on national television as he sat court side during a Heat/Mavericks game in December. He pushed a graduate assistant, which really shouldn’t have been an issue at all. He published a negative tweet about Texas A&M expressing his displeasure with the university, which is a non-issue for any other college kid who doesn’t have a Heisman sitting in their off-campus apartment. Are those really worth trashing Manziel over? Or was it a desperate attempt to fill page requirements or topics for talking heads on radio or TV?

He pleaded guilty in a misdemeanor charge for not identifying himself to an officer last summer following a fight at the Northgate section of College Station.** He’s messed up, he should be held accountable for his actions and must learn to adjust better on the fly with the platform he’s created for himself with his own talent.

Many of Manziel’s “transgressions” away from the field don’t hold much of a personal investment. I couldn’t give much of a shit. There’s nothing wrong with Manziel revealing the highlights of his offseason were road trips with friends, meeting LeBron or partying with Drake. Does it make him a douchebag? I guess, yeah, in some people’s eyes. Does it mean he cares less about football? No, but Manziel is in a dangerous battle this season. We’ll find out how he performs when the results of of last year will be set at close to unreachable levels in 2013 and the only true form of improvement is a national title.

His college life is unlike yours, mine, or the next five or six people. He’s a celebrity by all definitions of the word, but at the end of the day he’s trying to enjoy life just like the next kid enrolled in a university. The only difference is if you or I got drunk and passed out in a friend’s bathroom, it’d be a running joke on Twitter or Instagram for two hours. For Manziel, it’s a national controversy.

Because of that logic and his newfound fame, Texas A&M should adopt the media approach employed last year – don’t have one. Take a Twitter sabbatical, avoid the press after games win or lose and let the head coach handle the angry pit of lions and their iPhones, pens and laptops. Keep a relatively low profile during the season and between games, which will admittedly be more difficult this fall than last fall. Have all the news about Johnny Football actually be about football.

From one man’s vantage point, the bottom line is this. Manziel’s experiencing the as-expected image strip search. The kind where only seven months ago he was billed as everything progressive and awesome about college football. And now, in July 2013, he’s painted (although far from innocent) as the game’s marquee spoiled brat.

The story, its characters and its narratives trace back to adage older than the man who acknowledged this in 2006. Allen Iverson was right. “They love you right now. But please believe me, the first incident, the first time something happen, they are waiting, man.”

Johnny Football, this is your life.

* – Good shit, Johnny. Deny, deny, deny. Don’t even allow them to talk you into a corner. You’re 20-years-old. You’re not supposed to be drinking anyway. Deny it and don’t allow it to become an issue of “underage drinking.” Even though I doubt you’d have to apologize for simply “oversleeping” because the phone died.

** – This was by far the most serious of his dust-ups. According to the story, one of Johnny’s friends uttered a racial slur at a 47-year-old man and all hell broke loose. All reports stated Manziel was attempting to break up the argument until the 47-year-old man pushed him out of the way to get to his foul-mouthed friend. This incident damn near 187’d Manziel’s season before it even started last year. The lesson in all this? The company you keep is how a lot of people view you.

Photo: FOX Sports & Getty Images