The Media and the Manziel Tweets

Who knew that a Saturday night rant on Twitter in reference to a parking ticket would cause so much uproar in the sports media? But nobody should be surprised. It's the nature of the beast in this day of competitive sports journalism and online blogs and services. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop takes a different view of the situation.

Let's talk football. Let's talk about the Texas A&M football team. Let's talk about second year head coach Kevin Sumlin who has changed the culture and the fortunes of Aggie football in just one year on the job. Let's talk about arguably the most important game in Kyle Field history on September 14 against defending national champion Alabama. Let's talk about the Heisman Trophy quarterback who led the Aggies to an improbable 11-2 record in year one in the SEC. Let's talk about what he's doing in the offseason to advance his game for an encore performance in 2013 and a run at A&M's first national championship in 74 years.

In an offseason ripe with storylines for a Texas A&M football program that is in the process of changing rent districts and knocking on the door of the college football elites, the media has now been fixated for almost a week on a late night tweet by the "controversial" Johnny Manziel. Did Manziel insult a teammate that could cause chemistry issues in 2013? Did he insult his new QB coach or say something questionable about Sumlin that could lead to complications heading into the 2013 campaign. Did he say anything that would compromise his ability to perform on the field and lead his teammates in the fall? No.

Well, the infamous tweets were in reference to a parking ticket received by the College Station Police. Sure, the bit about "walk in my shoes for a day" was a bit whiny and out of touch. I can see where it rubs the average Joe the wrong way and raises a few eyebrows. And the tweet about "leaving College Station"…is there not a Texas A&M student that hasn't complained and vented about what is perceived to be an overzealous College Station police department? Manziel was reacting exactly like any 20 year-old Texas A&M student would do when he realizes he's been ticketed for his car being parked in front of his residence. Unfortunately, Manziel is the center of the college football world and there are hundreds of hungry journalists and online bloggers that feel reporting on all things not football with Manziel either sells newspapers or attracts many eyeballs on the web.

Let's be honest here. Sports journalism has become an extremely competitive and very crowded profession. Simply reporting facts from the games or press conference articles with player and coach quotes is no longer an exclusive storyline for beat writers and traditional sports journalists. The Internet has not only created many new online content providers, but even the universities are posting full videos and transcripts minutes after the press conferences along with other online content features that threatens the traditional media.

So how does the media differentiate themselves? Well, apparently they now report on celebrity drama and storylines off the field, and they provide non-stop conjecture of such events at every opportunity. How long has it been since Tim Tebow was a relevant sports figure on the field of play? It's been a year and a half, right? Yet, he signs a free agent deal with no guaranteed money which means Tebow is in the same boat as hundreds of young, hungry football players that will not likely see an opening day roster. Yet, you can't watch an episode of ESPN Sportscenter without some story or talking heads discussing Tebow's role in New England. It's become the nature of the beast in a quest to capture eyeballs and attention in a crowded sports media market. Tebow sells.

Frankly, I've come to expect this type of reporting from the national media talking heads. There are so many places on the Internet to get detailed discussion on the actual sporting events, so national outlets must play the human interest, celebrity controversy card. I get it. But what has surprised me is the local and regional Texas A&M beat writers that have gone all Johnny all the time in regard to reporting non-football late night tweets and Manziel sightings at various spots around the globe. Days and days of speculation as to the purpose of the tweet and how it affects not only Johnny but Texas A&M football in the future.

"Johnny is out of control", "Johnny isn't focused on 2013", and "Johnny's College Station tweet could affect A&M's recruiting efforts for years" is just a small sampling of the comments and analysis coming from not only the national media, but also the beat writers who usually stick to the facts of practice, games, offseason workouts, team news, and performance. But given the competitive landscape of today's sports media, it is not only understandable, but predictable.

It also clouds the real issue here, and how the college football world will ultimately judge and view Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M football. In my best James Carville voice, "It's the wins, stupid."

If Texas A&M beats Alabama on September 14 and goes on to win 11-12 games in 2013, will anybody care what Johnny Manziel tweeted about a parking ticket on June 15? No. Did anybody care about Joe Namath's flamboyant lifestyle after he won Super Bowl III against the Colts? No. Does anybody think that Texas A&M's recruiting will suffer from Manziel's tweet after another double digit win season in 2013? No. You get the point. Fans can discuss the drama and follow the media's soap opera coverage, but winning stops it all.

On the other hand, if Manziel slips up and stumbles even the slightest, you can bet the media will try to connect the dots from the tweets to the losses. If Texas A&M football doesn't live up to expectations in 2013, you can bet that the media will try to connect the dots from Manziel's College Station tweet to the rise and fall of Aggie football. It will happen like clockwork…guaranteed.

The only way those storylines won't be written about Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M football is simple….WIN. Manziel's tweet is not symbolic of anything. It doesn't portend impending disaster for the 2013 season. The tweet has nothing to do with future performance on the field which is already being suggested by some media, as if a 60-character tweet message on a Saturday night somehow indicates a lack of focus for the upcoming season…wrong. But what the attention from that tweet has done is put added pressure not only on Manziel, but also on the coaching staff and his fellow teammates to perform.

Just win baby! It's not a battle cry exclusive for former students and fans anymore. The media is hanging on those wins (or losses) as well, because they've already written the Manziel tweet storyline. They are just waiting for the results to send it to print…and they don't want a good story to go to waste.

Aggie Digest Top Stories