NORMAN — The real education of Johnny Football is just beginning. So he better enjoy all the clowning while he still can. He’s about to learn there’s no more wearying job in sports than being a marked man all the time.
For starters, you’re always looking over your shoulder for the next guy trying to make his name. It’s dispiriting, too, hearing nothing but boos on the road and knowing that even the guys who are supposed to have your back think of you as a calculated risk.
A few athletes have done it well for a while. But you can count on one hand how many of those — Ty Cobb comes to mind — parlayed the role into a long and productive career.
At the moment, sure, it seems like nobody can stop Manziel.
The NCAA whiffed on its shot and Rice — Texas A&M’s opening opponent — turned out to be overmatched. And this weekend’s opponent, Sam Houston State, arrives straight from the tomato-can division.
Neither A&M’s chancellor, a fanboy named John Sharp, nor it’s coach, Kevin Sumlin, who got a big raise riding the Johnny Football wave last season, are inclined to change a thing about him. He brings in too much money. Judging by recent remarks from his father, Paul, even Manziel’s parents have given up.
One referee in last Saturday’s game did his best, slapping Manziel with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the fourth quarter that even Sumlin couldn’t ignore. The coach finally benched his star — after Manziel had delivered three touchdowns, and as many insults, at the expense of Rice’s defenders — and then called it a “foolish penalty.”
“No matter what the comments are, he’s going to face that every week with people chirping. That’s not OK,” Sumlin added, “and obviously I addressed that on the sideline after it happened.”