From the time he went into Tuscaloosa as a freshman and knocked off the #1 ranked/eventual BCS National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide last November, Johnny Manziel has moved into the spotlight. As it turned out, that spotlight has consequently been cast by a giant microscope.
Manziel’s offseason has been one of great controversy; no matter what he does, he simply cannot stay out of the public eye. Manziel can look no further than his bathroom mirror to locate the reason for some of the backlash, however the Texas A&M Aggies quarterback can’t (or at least shouldn’t) be held culpable for all for the negative attention he has received.
Over the years, I’ve found myself supporting athletes that have felt the wrath of the national media for reasons I felt didn’t warrant that level of venom. Terrell Owens, Deion Sanders and Floyd Mayweather Jr. all fall into this category. I couldn’t defend all of their actions, but these guys each possessed talent that made them legends in their sport and they each desperately wanted to win, two facts that far too often got swept under the rug.
Knowing that I’ve always had this soft spot for so many of the quintessential “look at me” jerk athletes, it was no coincidence that I have remained a Johnny Manziel supporter despite his tumultuous spring & summer. I never gave it much thought as to why I rocked with this little dude though, outside of the fact that he was a great player— that is until a recent epiphany: Johnny Manziel is hip-hop!
The very genre and culture I found myself gravitating to before I even knew it was happening, is the same thing that makes me a Manziel defender. Like the aforementioned athletes, everything Manziel has done to this point cannot be justified, but his athletic accomplishments should not be overlooked and the way he lives his life should not be the subject of this level of scrutiny.
The parallels go far beyond Manziel tweeting out Big Sean lyrics as recently as this weekend. The following is the ever-growing list of reasons why — for better and for worse — Johnny is as hip-hop as pop-locking & beatboxing.
The Nickname: As referenced on HHSR last season, the nickname “Johnny Football” is one of the most badass nicknames in sports. Much like in hip-hop, a unique and or catchy moniker can take you a long way in sports. The nicknames go far beyond mere individual athletes; teams (The Dream Team), plays (The Immaculate Reception), games (The Ice Bowl)— each of these nicknames add to the mystique. The same is true within rap music, where practically no one voluntarily goes by their government name and a simple name change can help launch a career (See 2 Chainz).
Sidebar: Ironically, while “Johnny Football” is undoubtedly badass, one of wacker rap names out there today belongs to Jo-Vaughn Scott, better known as “Joey Bada$$”. Seems like it will be tough for him to break through as long as he keeps this name, despite his immense talent. It’s also worth pointing out that one’s government name can also make you the subject of ridicule in hip-hop.
Manziel being dubbed “Johny Football” increased both his rep in the streets and his own personal folklore. And even if for some idiotic reason he can’t make money off of it, the NCAA sure can.
The Youth: Manziel’s historic season came during his freshman year, which only adds to the legend. Why? Because youth is the coolest thing there is. It always has been and despite Jay Z’s best efforts, it always will be.
The New Rules:
The first redshirt freshman ever to do it.
The Busting Of Stupid Dope Moves: There is so much that goes into Johnny’s appeal (all will be covered). Much of it stems from the way he plays the game. Manziel is basically the 2000s model Doug Flutie— sleeker, faster, more dynamic. Every rapper has their own unique sound, cadence and rhyme scheme (or at least they should). Some are super lyrical (Lupe Fiasco), others are less witty, but have an undeniable flow (Juicy J). Some others barely even rhyme at all (Young Scooter). But the beauty of the genre is in the individual avenues each rapper/producer can embark on within the music.
While they aren’t always appreciated by larger bodies that are responsible for judging music, there is so much talent within hip-hop. Similarly, Johnny Football was better than everyone in college football last season. He plays the game like he has his ipod on inside his helmet; the way he dances on opposition is a joy to watch.
The Underdog Mentality: Listed at 6’1″ and 210 lbs, Manziel has a body type much more similar to that of a mid-major college point guard, as opposed to a starting quarterback on a National Championship contending SEC team. But who doesn’t like to root for the little guy?
His undersized stature and scrappy demeanor allow him to emulate the “rags to bitches” story spoken by many an emcee with each and every dropback.
The Feet On The Wood:
In a word… BAWSE!
The Ballin: Of course, the double entendre is in full effect.
You don’t get the name “Johnny Football” by just being a pretty good player. Manziel was flat out awesome during his redshirt freshman year in 2012, racking up over 5,000 total yards and 47 total touchdowns. Those are plateaus that even Tim Tebow and Cam Newton never reached in college.
Then there’s the ballin. Many people are unaware of the fact that Manziel comes from an exceedingly wealthy family, who has sat on a healthy Texas oil fortune for generations. So when you see Johnny sitting courtside, poppin bottles and living the fast life, it shouldn’t automatically cast him as a violator of NCAA rules.
The truth of the matter is, Manziel will most likely be a direct beneficiary of more money than your favorite rapper could ever dream up. Many artists attempt to prosper using the “now & later rap” technique (rap about it now, hope you get it later), but Johnny really is bout that life. He’s taking the word “ballin” to scary new places, on and off the field.
The Reppin Of Texas: You may not have known this, but football is a pretty big deal in Texas. Along with the Bush family, capital punishment and Boomhauer, it is one of the calling cards of the state.
What Texas isn’t necessarily know for is hip-hop. However, Houstonian emcee Scarface (along with The Geto Boys) practically fathered southern rap in the early 90s, and were direct influences on southern rappers T.I., Ludacris and Young Jeezy, among others. Manziel, the pride of Kerrville, Texas, put on for The Lone Star State in a major way last season. And with A&M’s move to the SEC last year — the one conference whose fans appear to inexplicably rep the conference harder than their own individual schools — Johnny is now holding it down for all of the south, much like these rappers…
The Women: For a while, it seemed as though every time a new picture of Johnny Football popped up on social media, he was with a different chick than the last time. Well, to the victor goes the spoils.
For the last several months though, Manziel appears to have been in a somewhat serious relationship with fellow A&M student/model Sarah Savage.
A fine choice, Johnny. And besides, who enjoys the company of models more than rappers?
The Beef In The Streets: Unafraid of the ramifications, Johnny rolled up on a campus party at the University of Texas a few weeks back, only to be unceremoniously thrown out on his ass.
The Disdain For Law Enforcement: It’s been well documented that the Aggies QB is far from a saint. In addition to nursing alleged drinking problem, this summer Manziel pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor offense stemming from a scuffle of which he was involved in 2012. He also vented about the frustrations of dealing with the College Station police and his readiness to leave the town on twitter and was subsequently raked over the coals by fans and pundits alike, who questioned his commitment to the A&M football program.
It’s no secret that many rappers are also not fond of the boys in blue. While gang affiliations are still prevalent in hip-hop today, some rappers have been heard to remark that “the biggest gang in America is the police” on various occasions. Manziel’s perceived bad boy image feeds directly into…
The Misunderstanding: The polarization of Johnny Manziel has taken on a life of its own this offseason. And while he’s certainly made mistakes (including being sent home from The Manning Passing Academy— one of the more overblown stories of the season), he’s far from a societal deviant. Anyone who is overly-critical of Manziel’s lack of maturity at this stage of his life needs to lower their insufferably unrealistic expectations.
Johnny Manziel is a 20-year-old college student, who happens to be more rich and famous than most us could ever imagine. Anyone who has went to college knows/knew firsthand a cafeteria full of immature 20-year-old college students, and they weren’t the lead story on Sportscenter every night either. Many of them couldn’t even pull chicks without joining a frat. Johnny Football is living it up right now, as he should. The responsibilities and rigors that come with being a professional football player will force Manziel to fall in line if he wants to be successful. The notion that he is going to transform himself into the ideal scholar-athlete overnight just because he’s really good at football is incredibly naive.
Similarly, many rappers have suffered the same fate of being held responsible for a disproportionate amount of society’s ills. However, as rap — and rappers themselves — have matured, so too has their message and their outlook. The same will most likely be true for Manziel.
The Ability To Make Old White People Uncomfortable: Be that as it may, many members of the media are still not all the way comfortable with how Manziel has handled the celebrity. True enough, Johnny Football’s last six months could resemble the last six months of any rapper (twitter beefs, trouble with the media, being thrown out of parties, court dates, and the like). Yet his age has not been a valid excuse for his behavior in the eyes of certain observers, some (not all) of whom happen to be elderly and of the causation persuasion.
Sports writers cannot string together four sentences without comparing him to Tim Tebow, while radio hosts believe Manziel is “becoming less likeable everyday”. And the idea that Manziel has ruined any freshman’s chances at winning the Heisman Trophy for years to come has even been floated. Is there some validity to the criticism? Absolutely. But an obvious disconnect seems to exist between Manziel — and those that identify with him — and people outside that culture who feel qualified to make broad presumptions about it…
A pain hip-hop knows all too well.
Sidebar: This clip proves that obviously it is not just old white people that have a problem with hip-hop— the same can be said for Johnny. The clip also proves though, that in many instances, it is older white males (specifically) that have the resources and the platform to speak out against genres of music, sophomoric collegiate athletes, or whatever else, enabling them to reach a wide audience in the process. Lastly, this clip proves that even after nearly 10 years, it is probably still the funniest 12 minutes of video available on the internet.
The Humor: The internet is a funny place. Twitter can be even funnier. Still funnier is Johnny Manziel’s twitter page. The way he heckled his hecklers last month was in a word…priceless. He went at everybody that went at him, including Yahoo!’s Pat Forde and random University of Oklahoma fans who still aren’t over last year’s Cotton Bowl.
It’s clear that the A&M signal caller is a fun-loving type of dude. And while some may chalk this up as immaturity, an optimist would look at these antics as Manziel making the best of a tough situation and having fun with the insane hand he’s been dealt.
It’s hard to say if there’s ever been a more hilarious genre of music than rap. Diss records, unintentional comedy brought about by horrific rhymes, album skits (on rare occasions), funny commentary, Cam’ron and music videos (Ludacris, Eminem, Shock G etc.) have all kept hip-hop heads laughing for years.
The Constant ESPN Coverage: Of all the missteps that he’s been involved with, the alleged autograph impropriety is the one that could actually lead to Manziel missing time on the field. If true, it proves that he really is about his paper more than we all knew. Regardless, the scandal has landed him on ESPN five times more frequently than rappers appear on First Take (which is a lot).
At this point, Manziel’s appearances on “The Worldwide Leader” are approaching Roger Clemens territory. Thankfully, he’s still at least two steps from the LeBron plateau and three full steps away from Def Con Favre.
The IDGAF Attitude: They pray and pray on his downfall, but Johnny Football appears determined not to let that shake him. Just as rap music was once thought to be a fad, the regression of Johnny Manziel is quickly becoming a popular narrative. The hole in this logic is that Manziel thrives off of the hate.
How else could this duel-threat quarterback break Cam Newton’s SEC records? Manziel, who appears to be half Newton’s size on television, absorbs all the punishment Cam did and keeps coming back for more. He didn’t get this far without playing with a chip on his shoulder the size of his own criticism. Fans haven’t seen this combination of toughness, guile and bravado from an undersized sportsman since Allen Iverson— the one athlete whose lifestyle most closely mirrored hip-hop culture, for better and for worse.
Johnny Manziel cares not for what you think…and he’s probably comfortable that way.
What could possibly be more “hip-hop” than that?