Anthony Epps, Antoine Walker, Ron Mercer: All 3 have had legal/off the court troubles. We love all 3.
I was struck by the hoard of media people surrounding Johnny Manziel at SEC Media Days on Wednesday, in part due to the fact he’s the returning Heisman winner, but mostly due to his recent dust up at the Manning Football Camp in which he was bounced for either oversleeping because of exhaustion or showing up hungover. I think we all can guess which is the more likely scenario for a guy who has been photographed a time or two having a good time with the special sauce. Plus, Manziel already was in some hot water for some tweets suggesting he was tired of being in College Staion, etc. And on top of all of that, Manziel has been arrested before in the past 2 years.
But watching the media piranhas swarm around Manziel, it got me thinking: do I really care what my team’s players do in their free time off the field or court, even if those actions are illegal or unsavory?
Let’s be completely honest, UK has had it’s share of dustups with the law or breaking of team rules over the years. Let’s not forget that Gerald Fitch was a big reason Team Turmoil was called that. Jules Camara obviously had a couple run-ins with the police. John Wall and Demarcus Cousins both came to Kentucky with a couple less than pretty stories around them. Yet, we still loved them. Why? Because they performed well on the field. Several football players have been booted from the team just this season. And there are countless more rumors that never come out publically about a ton of players on both teams. But do you, as a fan, really care about that?
I would think that most Texas A&M fans are going to forget Manziel’s troubled offseason when he throws for 250 and runs for another 100 in the season opener. We forget about Gerald Fitch or Joe Crawford’s troubles when they pour in 20 points. On the lil’ brother side, people forget Kevin Ware was suspended last season for a “violation of team rules”, which rumors had as poor practice habits and more, and then he breaks his leg and suddenly everyone thinks he is a team leader and UL fans love the guy. Just a couple months earlier, he couldn’t see the floor because of his behavior. UL fans were quick to forget the behavior of Ware just a short time ago when it suited them to like the guy.
But to be honest, UK fans would probably feel the same way. I know I do. The fact of the matter is, barring something serious on the illegal front (murder, rape, serious drug dealing), the behavior of 18-22 year olds off the court doesn’t concern me, nor interests me. I don’t care if my team’s players smoke weed. I don’t care if they are getting drunk all the time. And the reason is simple: I am cheering for a team more than I am the players. It’s why I am not a fan of the Washington Wizards, despite the fact that John Wall plays for them. I stick with the TEAM. So as long as the player is performing for my team, I don’t really care what he does as an individual, again barring something really serious. Perform on the field and you have my support.
If Johnny Manziel was my quarterback, I would be just as excited for the upcoming season, and just as big a supporter as I was 2 weeks ago before this all came down. I am not naive enough to think that every player who puts on the blue and white is a choir boy off the field. And we shouldn’t expect them to be that way. They are young adults, with the same young adult temptations that most of us experienced when we were in college, probably multiplied by 100. I fully expect my team’s players to be out at the bar on a Saturday night after a big win. But I care a lot more about THE WIN than I do the behavior after it.
So the question is: How important is a player’s off the field behavior to you?