Rants from SEC Media Days: Spurrier, Clowney, Les Miles, Johnny Football and You
With SEC Media Days now complete here are three things that I want to rant about.
Johnny Manziel and the dichotomy of being a 20-year-old celebrity.
There was no neutral ground for Johnny Manziel at SEC Media Days. You loved him or you hated him. He was praised for displaying the same confidence and composure that that won him the Heisman Trophy while being peppered with questions under the spotlight. He was critiqued for showing too much arrogance. There was no middle ground.
As much as I hate making the comparison, he matched Tim Tebow’s ability to polarize a room – and more universally, the internet. At the very crux of all the Manziel chatter is the predicament that he finds himself in. The issue is not the Manning Passing Academy. The issue is not underaged drinking (alleged). The issue is not what his family can and cannot afford. The issue is this: Johnny Manziel is twenty years old and he is famous. Really, really, famous. Really, really twenty years old.
He’s the most popular college football player on the planet and one of the most famous figures in his sport’s history. But he’s twenty years old. He was the youngest player ever to win one of the most prestigious awards in all of sports, but he’s still young. His fame and his age are not two mutually exclusive characteristics. They are very much coinciding.
People struggle to comprehend how Johnny Football can claim to be a “normal” twenty year-old college kid while describing the highlights of his offseason as, “Meeting Drake backstage at his concert in Toronto before flying to Cabo for Spring Break and later getting to chill with LeBron James.” At first glance, maybe those two concepts – the “normal young kid” notion and the “rock star” persona – disagree with each other. But maybe, just maybe, slightly deeper thinking can explain the paradox.
Could it be that when Manziel refers to himself as a “normal” college kid he really means, “I’m doing what any other college kid would do if he/she was given my opportunities.” Because that’s a statement that I can rally behind. As Daniel Palmer said on the podcast on Wednesday, “Give me his arm, his talent, his fame and his family’s money and things get way worse for me. And I’m 28!”
We live in a controversy-driven culture. The internet had exacerbated that problem. But if you can’t see that Johnny Manziel is equal parts normal kid and celebrity, then you have less common sense than society seems to think he has.
“But,” you may say, “Look at A.J. McCarron? He is humble, quiet, well-mannered and always out of the spotlight.”
All of that is true. A.J. McCarron, however, does not have a Heisman Trophy. A.J. McCarron is not bankrolled by a wealthy family. This is not intended as an insult, but A.J. McCarron doesn’t have Johnny Manziel’s charisma or personality either. McCarron is humble and polite. Manziel dominates a room. These are two different quarterbacks from two different backgrounds who behave in two different ways. I’m not going to condemn one for being wrong and award one for being right.
Manziel’s social life is capitalizing on his opportunities. For McCarron he capitalizes with National Championships. Each is true to himself. You could make a darn compelling case that each is living the better life.
Is anybody else over Jadeveon Clowney?
I stand by everything that I have ever said about Jadeveon Clowney. He’s a beast. He plays his position better than any player in the country plays theirs. He’s scary. He’s not human. But good gracious his legend is growing awfully out of control.
I wrote a few weeks ago that I didn’t think Clowney would live up to the offseason hype. My reasoning: the hype is darn-near unparalleled to begin with for a defensive player, his defense lost a lot of talent and teams may be able to scheme better for him and he doesn’t put up statistically monstrous games on a consistent level. Those are admittedly nit-picky criticisms but when we’re dealing with hoopla that is unprecedented (and I think we are for a defensive player), sometimes it takes some controversial disputing over minuscule points to disqualify someone.
I learned one thing when I wrote that article: NOBODY TALKS BAD ABOUT SOUTH CAROLINA’S BELOVED BABY JADEVEON!!!. NOT NOBODY, NOT NO HOW!!!!
First of all, the guys more than capable of defending himself. Secondly, I don’t think anybody is really talking trash about Jadeveon (he’s the only one doing that). Thirdly, just because Jadeveon is a once in a generation talent at the collegiate level does not mean he’s above reproach:
- He has a tendency to take plays off.
- He struggles at times in run defense.
- He is not the most attractive fellow in the world.
All-SEC teams were voted on during Media Days. Twenty people did not vote for Clowney on the First Team. Outrage ensued. Do I think Clowney is First Team material? Absolutely. Was I surprised that he wasn’t a unanimous choice? Somewhat, but things are rarely unanimous these days (remember, we love controversy).
People went absolutely nuts about it. Even former Georgia Bulldog turned hater David Pollack weighed in on Twitter saying, “All 20 of the 240 media members who didn’t vote Clowney First-Team All SEC, should never be able to vote again.”
Really, D.P? Never vote again? Isn’t that a little strong? Keep in mind, this is a Pre-Season vote. The goal of the vote is to predict what will happen this year. I can think of a number of reasons why someone could conceivably think Clowney wouldn’t finish as one of the two best DEs in the league:
- Maybe somebody saw a rising star at the DE position while covering the beat trail for his/her college team this Spring. Maybe somebody is saying, “That kid can be better than Jadeveon Clowney.” I bet the folks at Ole Miss are hoping Robtert Nkedkdmfdmdsfeche (spelling?) can be.
- Maybe a voter has heard something about Jadeveon’s offseason workouts. Yes he’s reportedly run incredible 40 times and benchpressed entire planets, but maybe he’s been letting off the gas a bit.
- Maybe somebody sees the way he plays and says, “For some reason I think all of his flailing and jumping over blockers is going to get him hurt.”
I’m not saying that I agree with any of the things I listed above or that I’ve heard any such inklings, but I haven’t seen what every voting Media member has seen either.
Jadeveon Clowney is great. But South Carolina fans – and now fans in general – are putting a hell of a lot of pressure on him.
Les Miles is a Gift
Les Miles is an absolute treasure to college football. He dropped knowledge on the unevenness of SEC scheduling in a very non-Spurrier way (meaning he had facts that weren’t simply demonstrative of his team’s fortune or misfortune). He spoke eloquently about his coaching staff, players and other personnel. He spoke with an Australian accent for a spell (seriously). He talked about Twitter, the United State of America and the Harlem Shake.
Les Miles was great.
That’s all I got/