A lot of pundits, analysts, writers and even some players are trolling Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Strong but true words.
Yes, that 20-year-old kid who is dealing with unprecedented success and expectations after becoming the first freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy last season. Grown men, many well over 25 with fully developed frontal cortices, are coming after him.
People like ESPN's Lou Holtz and even Mark May, who himself hasn't been a model, law-abiding citizen in the past, have been critical.
This is an era of micromanaging athletes, where having a little bit of fun off the field is considered borderline taboo and even mixing it up on the field is decried—at least in Manziel's case—as some form of classlessness.
Manziel should not change for anyone, because he's still coming of age, for crying out loud.
Negativity has been prominent after Manziel's eventful offseason that included high-profile appearances, being booted from a rival school's frat party and an autograph fiasco that got him suspended for the first half of the 2013 opener.
The sensationalism attached to Manziel is due to the growing legend that is Johnny Football. His on-field conquests are magnifying the public consequences he faces when judgments about what he does with his other time come.
It's as if he's being stigmatized as an alcoholic for attending one frat party and oversleeping at the Manning Passing Academy. It's as if he is without even a "smidge of humility" because he got one unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in a game that wasn't close.
It's as if Manziel is being criticized for being a 20-year-old "living life to the fullest" amid incredible—and incredulous—publicity.
When he entered this past Saturday's game against Rice, though, Manziel did exactly what he's done ever since arriving at College Station—be a straight-up stud on the gridiron.
Six of eight passes completed for 94 yards and three touchdowns later, he was getting an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for allegedly trash-talking to Rice defenders. Head coach Kevin Sumlin pulled him from the game, with the outcome already handily in the Aggies' favor.
Many bashed Manziel for blowing off his head coach, but Sumlin said Manziel did not ignore him, per Sam Khan Jr. of ESPN.com:
When [Manziel] came off the field, basically I made two statements to him, neither one of which should he have responded to..They weren't questions. They were direct statements that I can't repeat right now. So what's amazing to me is the perception that he ignored me. The worst thing that could have happened was for him to reply, based on what I told him.
Announcers on the ESPN telecast in Texas A&M's 52-31 rout over Rice were relentlessly picking Manziel apart on national TV, where one broadcaster called Manziel's actions "stupid," per USA Today.
Nick Elder, the Rice player Manziel was apparently digging into, provided his account of the events on Twitter, suggesting Manziel did nothing wrong:
Football is a violent game, where confidence and self-belief is required to succeed. Manziel has plenty of those qualities, not to mention leadership, passion, competitive fire and the athletic and mental chops to play quarterback effectively for a top-10 college football team.
If people truly are offended by Manziel's behavior, there's one simple solution: don't watch him.
Good luck avoiding the temptation to see his electric, dual-threat self when he takes the field against Alabama in a week and a half, though.
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