There are two ways to look at this brief cut of Thursday night's nationally televised game between the Mavericks and the Heat, in which Steve Kerr proposes that Johnny Manziel ought to be the subject of suspicion because he is ostensibly an unpaid amateur and he was sitting in extremely expensive seats. The first is that Kerr is a semi-unwitting snitch who noticed some suspicious activity, brought it to the attention of a national audience, and therefore potentially made Manziel the subject of an NCAA inquiry. This would make Kerr a jerk, which is not outside the realm of possibility.
The second is that the concept of "improper benefits" for college athletes has become so bizarre to so many—that the idea that there is barely such a thing an "improper benefit" has become mainstream in the wake of scandals like the merch-for-tattoos mess at Ohio State, or Shabazz Muhammad's time in limbo for accepting travel and hotel fare from a family friend—and Kerr began the discussion expecting that it would be taken as a joke. He ought to have known better, because to actively follow sports is to be aware of arbitrary NCAA compliance regulations, but the fact that he didn't may mean that pro sports broadcasters see "infractions" as non-issues.
It is a non-issue, regardless of Kerr's intention—Craig Sager delivered a sideline report later in the game, creepily assuring viewers, "everything is legit," and Brian Floyd argued convincingly—while also making the point that the fuss was over nothing—that Manziel comes from means sufficient to splurge on good tickets to sporting events every so often. Manziel himself urged his antagonists to stop hating;
Bought myself a little birthday present tonight stop hating! #HEATvsMAVS— Johnny Manziel (@JManziel2) December 21, 2012
Nevertheless, there will always be outlets that continue to hate, because hating on young, successful people is good business. Yahoo writes:
That doesn't, however, explain how he also had seats to the Rockets-Sixers game on Wednesday night. Not only did Manziel go to the game, he also was invited into the Rockets' locker room after the game and showed James Harden how to strike the Heisman pose (and put it on Instagram for everyone to see).
Yes, it's been a whirlwind for Manziel, but the last thing he'd want to do is turn a positive for the university into him sitting out the Cotton Bowl for a couple basketball games. If these games were a present to himself — and he is a huge LeBron James fan — good for him. It's probably something he's been planning for awhile.
And that's what we'll assume until the NCAA proves otherwise.
Cue the opening bars to Beethoven's 5th. Bleacher Report has a predictably trolly article as well, and Chris Chase wrote a story titled, "Johnny Football's courtside seat sparks wild speculation," which includes this bizarre segue, followed by a common and useful hedge for stories with no substance:
Look, we have no idea how Manziel got the tickets. If he says he bought them, then we believe him. Texas A&M fled the Big 12 for the added millions of the Southeastern Conference television contract.
It may be true — perhaps he came into family money at 18 or gets a sizable allowance or works lucrative jobs in between classes and football practice — but it doesn't pass many people's smell test.
Even if you believe that accepting basketball tickets as a favor from a booster—which Manziel didn't do—is wrong—and you would increasingly be in the minority on that subject—it's not enough to write a piece about how "many people" were suspicious. Either the writer himself is suspicious and should research those suspicions, or it's fine. Vaccines don't pass the smell test for many people, but writers don't use that fact to impugn vaccines. They should be equally careful about accusations that, for better or worse, may affect a college student's eligibility.