Let's talk about Johnny Manziel's hangover, which is a fun thing to talk about because it ends with Johnny Manziel getting screwed regardless of the truth. If Johnny Manziel really was hungover the night before a meaningless voluntary offseason QB camp session, then NFL people will crush him for not having his priorities in order. And if Johnny Manziel really was just suffering the ill effects of dehydration, then NFL people will crush him anyway for being a wimp and a quitter.
There is a bizarre moral standard that people force on quarterbacks that very rarely applies to any other position in sports. If a linebacker showed up hungover to Peyton Manning's camp, you would have a laugh and spend all day praying that Roger Goodell didn't suspend him for the opener. But if Tony Romo does it? OH MY GOD I QUESTION HIS HEART. This is why morons go crazy over Tim Tebow—because he fulfills every meathead's wet dream about the kind of work ethic and moral rectitude a quarterback MUST have in order to lead a team to the Super Bowl. To slack off even for a single day is to fall behind.
Again, this Manziel thing all stems from one night of partying during the fucking OFFSEASON. This sort of thing takes a toll. It has to. I have a theory about this. Let's call it the McNabbing of quarterbacks. NFL executives and analysts have devised a system in which any talented and suggestible young quarterback will find himself hounded and hounded until, in the end, he assumes the very characteristics that they mistakenly believe he possesses. This isn't a traditional case of building someone up and tearing him down. This is trolling on an elaborate scale. This is finding a ripe target and molding him in the image of your worst bogeyman. Johnny Manziel may not have been a douchebag a year ago. But by the time the machine is finished with him, he will be.
This will not be the end of the mini-controversies for Manziel. We've already had his arrest, his other night out drankin', his anti-A&M tweet, and a few other incidents. Taken in total, these events don't really tell you much about what kind of dude Manziel really is, and they certainly don't seem to have impacted his ability to throw the football. But that's of little consequence. Look at this hand-wringing from Peter King: "He's got a party-boy rep, deserved or not."
Think about how insane that is. "Hey, here's a player with a reputation that may not have any basis in reality. EITHER WAY IT HURTS HIM." And here's some idiot from the Orlando Sentinel back in April:
Hopefully in the future, Heisman voters will carefully consider the media savvy and maturity of a candidate along with their on the field achievements.
So true! The Heisman shouldn't go to someone we could so effectively fuck over!
And then there's Mark May, who is the fucking worst:
Alright Johnny Football enough is enough this is your last wake up call STOP BRINGING SHAME TO THE GAME !— Mark May (@mark_may) July 16, 2013
Manziel now has a phantom rap sheet, a resume for his media detractors to pad. For them, each stupid fake controversy serves as yet another damning piece of evidence that Johnny Football isn't ELITE, or doesn't love the game, or some other bullshit like that. You can imagine how frustrating this would be if you were Johnny Manziel, if you were required to negotiate the demands of an idiotic media culture that judges you on the quality of your self-presentation and marketing, and conspires with your future employers to reify those judgments in ways that actually affect your work, your salary, and your professional life. The wonder isn't that great athletes often turn into bitter, hostile assholes; it's that they don't all do.
There is precedent for this sort of thing. I don't remember a single person who had a bad thing to say about Donovan McNabb before he was drafted by the Eagles. But then he was booed on draft night (as you recall, Eagles fans wanted to draft Ricky Williams instead), and then embarked on a remarkable odyssey of having controversy forced upon him, seemingly without him seeking it out. He was openly insulted by his own nutjob wideout. He was infamously called out by some fuckhead at the NAACP for not running the ball enough even though history has proven time and again that Super Bowls are won by traditional pocket passers, and he was attacked from the right—by Rush Limbaugh, no less—as a kind of affirmative-action superstar. He got shit for throwing up on the field, even though plenty of players have done that. I barely remember that, at one point, Donovan McNabb was a remarkably effective NFL quarterback. All I remember is the petty nonsense.
By the end of his career, Donovan McNabb had essentially become the disingenuous idiot that his critics had made him out to be. He had his agent openly bitch about the Redskins coaching staff, which set off John Feinstein's racial-coding alarm. He complained his way out of Minnesota after getting demoted and found himself unwanted by every other NFL team. And now he tweets out stuff like this:
Could this be the end of Aaron Hernandez NFL career? Your thoughts?— Donovan McNabb (@donovanjmcnabb) June 26, 2013
He's become everything bad you ever said about him.
You can see it happening right now with Robert Griffin III. Look at the river of shit RGIII has gotten since committing the crime of being a really exciting rookie football player:
Everything he does from now on will be a referendum in the media on the celebrity they built for him. It's easy to imagine it all chipping away at RGIII, poking and prodding at him until one day, he's finally like, "You know what? FUCK ALL YOU PEOPLE." And then everyone who said RGIII was a phony can stand up and be like, "AHA! TOLD YOU HE WAS A PHONY!" This is what it's like to be RGIII or Johnny Football right now. You get handed distractions, and then are accused of being one.
For Manziel, being the first frosh to win the Heisman may turn out to be a curse. The Good Book warns, "Woe unto you when all speak well of you."
You can practically taste the disapproval there. Gregg is chastising Manziel merely for what he THINKS Manziel might do as a young Heisman winner with plenty of booze and women available to him. You can feel Gregg aching to be RIGHT about this, for it to be proven that there's no place in football for someone actually enjoying himself. And it sucks that the football world is like this. It sucks that we have a football culture that consists of nothing but Coach Conrads, a culture that glowers at anyone who is seen as overly enjoying the fruits of his labor, a culture that constructs a series of pointless media tests to see if a quarterback can handle pointless media tests. Why would I ever want to play or coach football if it means that I have to be a fucking android? It could be that Johnny Manziel won't be able to handle the bullshit. And if he can't, that says a whole lot more about people like Mark May than it does about Johnny Football.