The NCAA has a flair for the dramatic. When Johnny (Once Again) Football leads the team out for the second half Saturday against Rice, the roar is going to shake down the thunder from College Station to the International Space Station.
StubHub no doubt declared it a casual Wednesday now that it is official that Johnny Distraction can play. Prices for that Texas A&M opener are going to shoot through the roof. The cries are no longer “Free Johnny!” but “Johnny did it for free!” It doesn't really matter how many times because the NCAA got him on a technicality. Yahoo, Johnny Headline is only missing the first half Saturday -- tapped lightly on the wrist by the NCAA having to sit out the first half Saturday.
But why, exactly?
It was another reminder it's not necessarily what is alleged about some of these slimy violations, it's what the NCAA can prove. Judging by Wednesday's weak-sauce suspension, it wasn't much. It did prove that Johnny Skates has one hell of a legal team.
The Manziel family's El Paso lawyer who proudly declares on his website he is “privileged to defend citizens accused of murder” convinced some very powerful people in Indianapolis that his client didn't get away with exactly that -- collegiately speaking. The only thing that kept Johnny Footloose from taking the first snap of the season was an “inadvertent violation?” Johnny Teflon should have known that the thousands of autographs he signed would be used for profit? Well, yeah, but when did that become a violation much less an inadvertent one?
If that's the case every Heisman winner since Jay Berwanger is guilty.
While the whole world was watching, the Johnny Football who allegedly needed new rims for his Mercedes C-class had to settle for factory issue. That's a convoluted way of saying perhaps the NCAA saw him as more “not guilty,” rather than innocent. The NCAA's standard of proof isn't that high, but the evidence didn't rise to a major violation for an enforcement staff that suffers from diminished numbers and brain drain.
In the seedy underworld of an autograph market that swears by “certificates of authenticity” who really knows? Or maybe that's point. The whole world was watching.
The NCAA seems to be saying: Shame on Johnny Sharpie for allowing his marker to get in the way of countless pieces of paper, helmets and babies' foreheads. He had to know those items – (well, maybe not the infant foreheads) -- were at some point going to be turned into pure profit.
Never mind there is a bit of hypocrisy in that conclusion. The NCAA uses players' images to churn out cash. That's another story. Another lawsuit, actually.
Johnny Heisman is free and I'm wondering why he got penalized at all. A Manziel-less first half seems to be some sort of middle ground from an NCAA who begged that lawyer Jim Darnell, “You know we have nothing. We know we have nothing, but you have to give us something to save face.”
Makes sense, especially since Darnell predicted that Manziel would start the season.
And so it is. Public opinion seemingly has had quite the effect lately on the NCAA. It moved efficiently when the Steven Rhodes case became a potential embarrassment at Middle Tennessee. It got the Johnny Cabo episode wrapped up before the season started.
But if any us believe that this is over, you've got another Manziel coming. I've been on several shows repeating the same thing this preseason: “Johnny Manziel is a loaded gun aimed at the heart of Texas A&M football.” Every true Aggie has to believe this. You know who you are. That same heart that yearns for a Manziel-led championship, also wants him the hell out of school shortly after the bowl game.
The NFL Draft or a Mexican resort or a Scooby Doo Halloween party beckons. If any of us are naïve enough to surmise that this is the end of any Manziel-branded shenanigans, please leave the keyboard now.
And don't let the hard drive hit you in the behind on the way out.
For now, Texas A&M gets back its renegade quarterback. The Alabama game retains its luster. The Aggie Code of Honor remains intact. All is right with the world … until Johnny Gatecrasher gets wind of the next University of Texas frat party.