Young athletes can spend hours perfecting their autograph, only to arrive in college and discover that the NCAA owns it. I'm just surprised the NCAA didn't make Johnny Manziel sign a check made out to the NCAA. That's basically what Manziel does every Saturday in the fall, anyway.
NCAA rules are antiquated, grossly unfair, absurd and almost offensive. If a coach can make $5 million a year because he has great players, a player should be allowed to sell his autograph, his picture, a pint of blood or tattoo space on his left arm. I believe that completely. And that's what I want to say in the wake of the ESPN report that Manziel got paid five figures by an autograph broker last winter ...
But there is one problem.
Manziel is just about the worst person on the planet to fight the NCAA on amateurism.
This past offseason, the Texas A&M star flew to the NBA Finals, and he hung out with rap stars. His father, Paul, recently told ESPN The Magazine that the family has "a lot of money" from an oil fortune. Manziel also has a pickup truck full of cash in his future -- both from the NFL, where he could be a first-round pick next spring, and from selling autographs in Texas for the rest of his life. He doesn't need the money now, and he will definitely earn more later. The martyr suit doesn't fit.
Also, there is the small matter of Johnny Football saying some delusional things lately. On one evening this summer, he tweeted that (s---) "like tonight is why I can't wait to leave college station ... whenever it may be."
Pop quiz! What kind of (s---) was he talking about?
A. Texas fans beat him up.
B. Alabama fans beat him up.
C. He had to go walk more than 20 feet before finding a fellow student who would go on a date with the Heisman Trophy winner.
Nope, nope, nope. The answer is:
D. Cops knocked on his door and woke his roommate so he could move his car without getting a parking ticket.
Wow. I can't understand how anybody could tell the story without laughing at him. I have been a college student and gainfully employed; I have met folks well below the poverty line, and people worth $100 million or more. Never, in my whole life, have I heard somebody angrily complain that a cop wanted to get him out of a parking ticket.
I'm almost afraid to ask, but what the hell: What would Manziel say if cops got him out of a speeding ticket? Would he demand that Texas secede from the union?
Hey, anybody can hit "send" on a stupid tweet. I do that about three times a day. But it fits a pattern for Manziel, who seems to think the world is out to get him. Manziel's father recently told ESPN that officials at Texas A&M are "so selfish" and don't look out for Johnny enough.
Right. As we all know, officials at SEC schools just hate their Heisman-winning quarterbacks. Sure they do.
I have nothing against Manziel, who is a fascinating player and probably a fun dude. He hasn't done anything terribly wrong. But the idea that the world has been so hard on him lately is laughable.
Let me tell you what has happened to him in the past year: His life got indescribably awesome. Drake and Wale wouldn't have given him 10 seconds of their time a year ago. Now he gets to hang out with celebrities and walk to the front of any line. He gets to be the king of his campus, and he gets to decide who gets to be queen.
As he told SI's Andy Staples recently: "When we look back 20, 30 years down the road, we're going to sit there and be like, 'We pretty much hung out with the f------ Beatles.' We pretty much did everything we wanted to do."
Good for him. Just don't whine about the tradeoffs. They are laughably minor. Oh, sure, he can't drink in public because he is still under 21 and got arrested outside a bar once. When he "oversleeps" for work at the Manning Passing Academy, word gets out. People ask for his autograph and stop him on the street. He is not the first college star quarterback to get recognized, and he won't be the last. Deal with it.
I hope that someday, somebody steps forward and successfully challenges the NCAA's amateurism policy. We've seen enough from Manziel to know that he is not the right person.