Johnny ‘Football’ Manziel has become a mainstream icon: put on a pedestal by adoring fans. At the same time, his fall garners more attention than anything else: sensationalized reporting has turned the Manziel project into a sideshow. Many claim his late night partying has become evidence of why he is not a starting QB — like he is the first one to drink and play football. And this is not an article sticking up for the famous quarterback because as much as the media wants him to fail, Manziel provides the moments: as if he does not know by now that every one of his actions will be held under a magnifying glass.

Now, the latest non-football problem in Manziel’s world is the fight that took place in a Cleveland hotel lobby. An allegedly intoxicated fan named Chris Gonos stated, “[His bodyguards] were trying to keep it quiet, keep it low, and I was like ‘Johnny Football!’ I was just excited. But anyways, I went to give him like a handshake, or dap or whatever you want to call it, one of his buddies like tackled me. It was going down, a whole bunch of people started fighting. It ended pretty quick.”

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Photo © Erik Drost via Flickr Commons

Now, one must wonder if there is any truth to these accusations, but once it enters the public conscious, truth does not matter anymore. A good portion of people will use confirmation bias to further form their subjective opinions about an individual: it is quite possible that they will interpret this news as confirmation that Manziel is a problem without reading all of the facts — thus the damage is already done. It does not matter if Gonos actually did something wrong — this is completely speculative and I am not calling Gonos a liar — the initial story about a brawl featuring Manziel fits into the already formed opinion that he is a trouble.

Perhaps any NFL star will make headlines for being involved in a brawl; however, most will not get the attention that Manziel does — every major publication, sports related or not, talks about this young man because he attracts readers. It is logic: headlines that are more click bait will attract a bigger audience — no one can fault the industry for trying to make money because this is a product of what the media has become. At the same time, it is the subject’s job to realize enough is enough: as this big of a national figure, he must be aware that everything he does is going to be scrutinized. And to be somewhat fair to the media — even if they do no truly deserve it — Johnny has fueled their fire: giving them events to report on.

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No matter what, a picture of the star rolling up a bill while in the bathroom does not look good: again, people who think they are experts will speculate about what is happening — commenting on events without knowing the full truth. I am not saying he is innocent either, but this image perfectly plays into how Manziel has been portrayed by the media. This ultimately begs the question, how much of this stuff is actually news?

Should fans care about the Manning camp incident: where the young college QB was dismissed from the camp due to his off the field antics — it was believed that instead of resting, he went out on Bourbon street, resulting in him missing the morning practice. Should people care about his multiple Twitter beefs, his personal life or what he chooses to do with his free time — look at Joe Namath or Ken Stabler, classic QBs known for their extravagant lifestyle. Stabler even admitted, “Some people need eight hours, some people need three hours. I don’t really need an awful lot of sleep and I would read the game plan by the light of the jukebox sometimes.”

However, in the day and age of social media and 24/7 news coverage, fans want to be as close to their favorite players as possible: thus making stories that were not headlines in the past, thoroughly fine now — do I really need to see a picture of Manziel rolling up a bill? Also as Stabler and Namath showed, when you are winning, off the field is not as important as on the field. But this is the main problem with Johnny Football: he is a media sensation and he has not even played a down in the NFL. So should a back up QB for the Cleveland Browns be scrutinized to this degree? In my opinion, no player should be dissected like this: let alone, a player who is not even a starter.

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Photo © ESPN

Either way, with the fighting, drinking and partying, Johnny Football’s spotlight is not going to fade anytime soon: and it looks like the media will get plenty of opportunities to emphasize and speculate about the athlete’s shortcomings. So basically, this is a conundrum that is doomed to repeat itself: at least until one side breaks free from the monotony. Hopefully, for the sake of the young man’s career, it is Johnny Football who succeeds.

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