ESPN’s passionate love affair with Johnny Football

ryanclarke_8-20

I don’t care about the Browns’ quarterback battle. I just don’t.

So why, ESPN, must you barrage me with incessant coverage of a particular candidate in this battle, Mr. Johnny Manziel?

The attention paid to Manziel by every program on the worldwide leader has reached a point of downright ridiculousness. As I was sitting in the cafeteria at Taylor Place watching Manziel struggle to complete a pass (and hold back his temper) in a preseason game, I noticed ESPN had put together a little package juxtaposing Manziel’s throwing motion with that of MLB star Derek Jeter.

How on earth can you compare two athletes that are most literally on opposite sides of the spectrum? Despite the fact they play two completely different sports, Jeter is a first-ballot hall of famer, consummate professional, and arguably the greatest shortstop to ever play the game. Manziel is an unproven, poorly composed kid who was thrust into a competition to play quarterback for one of the worst teams in the NFL.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed watching Manziel play for Texas A&M.; As a fan of college football, seeing him singlehandedly thwart the likes of Nick Saban and Alabama brought joy into my heart. Ignoring the photo of him possibly getting ready to snort some cocaine, his wildly inappropriate gesture toward an opposing sideline in a preseason game and his general poor attitude and thin skin, Johnny Football is fun as hell to watch.

That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be a great NFL quarterback. Manziel, by nature, is mobile, elusive and improvisational under center. He also, by nature, takes too many risks, doesn’t have experience in a pro-style offense, and does a poor job leading his receivers.

All of these factors led to a decision by the Browns Wednesday morning that their week-one starter will be Brian Hoyer. Don’t expect the coverage to stop, though. Now the discussion point will be trying to qualify why Manziel isn’t the starter, sprinkled with not-so-significant statistics and good old-fashioned debate.

I just can’t grasp what influences the big wigs at ESPN to stuff their programming with as much Manziel content as possible. I understand that in order to maintain ratings, you need to draw the audience in with stories they actually care about. Problem with that is, I don’t know a single person that doesn’t groan when they have to sit through another ten-minute Manziel segment on SportsCenter.

A prime example of a groan-worthy moment came on the night when NASCAR driver Tony Stewart struck and killed Kevin Ward, Jr. When the horrifying video was released, the sporting world stopped spinning on its axis. But for ESPN, the gravitational pull of Manziel, the shining star at the center of their sports solar system, was far too powerful to resist. They devoted mere seconds to the Stewart story in its early stages (despite a bevy of witnesses and video evidence) and soon after spent countless minutes ogling over Johnny.

Blatant disregard for journalism and a passion for sensationalism are running rampant in Bristol. When Stephen A. Smith can imply that Ray Rice was “provoked” to beat his wife, and come back a week later like nothing happened, there’s proof that ratings triumphed over morality. If ESPN didn’t have a monopoly on the sports news industry, I’m sure many would just stop watching.

Reach the columnist at RClarke6@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @RClarkeASU

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

Want to join the conversation? Send an email to opiniondesk.statepress@gmail.com. Keep letters under 300 words and be sure to include your university affiliation. Anonymity will not be granted.