It’s official, Johnny Manziel is Vincent Chase from “Entourage.”
Over the weekend Manziel got kicked out of a Texas frat party and wore a Tim Tebow Jets jersey.
This almost broke the Internet.
Over two million people have watched Manziel leaving the Texas frat party.
For a twenty second video.
It’s clear now that Manziel’s closest comparisons no longer play college football, it’s Hollywood. He’s Vinnie Chase with the Heisman. Hell, according to my buddy Bruce Feldman, he even has a friend he calls Turtle. (Thanks to David Campbell for the image).
I was in Vegas for the weekend and I turned my cell phone off for 24 hours. When I turned my phone back on it took me 45 minutes to scroll through all the Manziel talk that you guys had sent me. Love him or hate him, after this past weekend there is no doubt that Manziel is the most scrutinized college athlete in history. Being in Vegas while I read all these mentions reinforced the idea I’d had for some time, that Manziel had a lot more in common with a fictional television character who spent lots of time in Vegas than he did with other college athletes.
Who else has taken over the news for getting kicked out of a frat party and wearing a jersey? This level of scrutiny has never happened before to any college athlete. That’s why at this point Manziel has more in common with Vinny Chase from “Entourage” than he does with any college athlete. It’s a comparison Manziel probably welcomes, since his goal seems to be to bring his friends along for the wild celebrity ride he’s on. The thing that made Vinny Chase and his friend so relatable was the childlike glee with which they embraced celebrity. They weren’t too cool to get ridiculously excited about meeting famous people. And they realized how fortunate — and absurd — their newfound fame really was.
You can either shrink from fame or you can embrace every opportunity that fame brings to you.
I mean, when you’re an eight year old kid practing your cursive autograph you’ll give when you’re a star athlete, do you want to be famous so you can hide from the paparazzi and never leave your house or do you want to be famous and do everything you’ve ever dreamed of doing?
Manziel’s just living the dream.
Most of his haters? They wish they were him. (Over the weekend Manziel Tweeted a picture of his Heisman trophy to a hater. He also Tweeted, “Sweet bowl game bro,” to an Oklahoma fan. As scoreboard tweets go, these were pretty extraordinary).
Look at Manziel’s offseason, the same childlike glee is there in every celebrity interaction he has.
Would you be surprised to see Vinny Chase rocking the Scooby Doo outfit at Halloween while he danced with lingerie models at a bar?
In fact, Entourage creator Doug Ellin is kicking himself for not thinking of this plot line.
So what’s the payoff to all this offseason fame, to Manziel going “Entourage”? Well, so far, it goes directly into CBS’s pocket. That’s what happens when you’re still an amateur, all the income you make goes into someone else’s pocket. That’s why I believe that Alabama at Texas A&M — a 3:30 eastern kickoff on CBS come September 14th — will be the highest rated regular season college football game on television since Notre Dame – Miami on November 25th, 1989. And that 1989 game, which notched a 14.5 rating, came in a different era, before hundreds of stations sliced and diced our ratings numbers into fractions of what they once were.
That game posted an 11.9 rating.
I think fan interest in Bama-Texas A&M will be higher than interest was for LSU-Alabama. Partly that’s a function of the schedule, both teams will be undefeated and it’s a rematch of one of the best games from last year. Partly that’s a function of the massive size of Texas’s market — what sports fan in Texas won’t be watching Bama-A&M? Hell, Austin will be one of the highest rated markets in the country, just wait. Even Longhorn fans want to see what Manziel and crew can manage against the Crimson Tide in the rematch.
Plus, we’ve had an entire offseason to talk about how big this game was going to be, to marinate in the hype. You saw what ESPN did with Johnny Manziel when it came to “oversleeping” at the Manning Passing Academy. Their Manziel interview turned into the biggest sports story for two days. Can you imagine what they’ll do for Bama at A&M when game week actually gets here? The hype will be Super Bowl like.
By kickoff College Station will be as electric as any college football environment has ever been. The LSU-Alabama hype in 2011 grew over the course of the season. I don’t remember anyone pointing to that game in May of 2011 and saying it was definitely the best game on the schedule. From the moment the 2013 season ended with Alabama drubbing Notre Dame, college football fans turned their attention to this game.
We’ve been talking about it for eight months. Not a week has passed without y’all Tweeting me questions about this game. Alabama at Texas A&M has turned into the black hole of the 2013 college football season. No matter what topic you start talking about in college football, eventually it descends into the black hole of Bama-A&M.
You can’t escape it.
As if that wasn’t enough, Manziel has embarked on an offseason star tour that has served as one extended preview for the game.
Believe it or not prior to that November 10th game at Alabama, Manziel was still under the national radar. His A&M team was just 7-2, 4-2 in conference. A&M’s best win to that point in 2012? A road victory at collapsing Mississippi State. Indeed, A&M was just three weeks removed from a home loss to LSU, a team that had managed to make Manziel look downright ordinary.
And then what happened?
Over the course of a single afternoon Johnny Manziel became a an Aggie legend, passing for 253 yards and running for 92 more, 345 total yards on the road against Nick Saban’s Alabama defense.
The Alabama game made Johnny Manziel a national star. The next several games cemented that star turn, rocketing him to the Heisman trophy and from there to Hollywood celebrity status in the world of sports.
The Alabama game turned Kevin Sumlin into Manziel’s own Ari Gold. How could he manage his star without burning bridges between them, how could he make certain that Manziel’s star didn’t tarnish the suddenly premier brand in the Lone Star state? How in the world do you ensure that a twenty year old overnight celebrity doesn’t burn out on his own fame?
The Alabama game was Manziel’s own Aquaman.
Now what happens ten months later in the sequel?
Everyone wants to know, does Manziel have a second act, can he refine and raise his game to another level? Because make no mistake about it, the Alabama game will be seen as a referendum on Manziel’s offseason. After an offseason akin to Vinny Chase’s “Entourage” lifestyle, will September 14th be Manziel’s own “Medellin,” a total collapse brought on by overreaching and too much confidence? Or will it be mere prelude for Manziel’s greatness, the game that shows Johnny Football has long-time staying power, that his star won’t dim, that he’s not a one-hit wonder?
Vegas is betting on a Manziel bust, smart money pushed the line to Alabama -9.5 this weekend. Yep, the Crimson Tide and Nick Saban are nearly double-digit road favorites in the biggest home game in A&M history.
Ten months after Bama made him a star, can Manziel deliver again?
I know I can’t wait for the Bama-A&M sequel.
Neither can you.
It’s why more people will be watching this football game than any regular season game since 1989.