Saturday, July 26, 2014

ZOMG Selfies!!!!

So a sports talk radio host asks the question - in all seriousness - "Is it beneficial for Johnny Manziel to be taking selfies with Justin Bieber and posting them online?" This is, of course, a rhetorical question. We are meant to answer with a resounding "no", with a side of "how dare he", joining the fuddy-duddy host in stern, serious disapproval.

The actual appropriate response is derisive laughter. The word "beneficial" is meaningless in this case. Beneficial to who? The organization? Well, every minute Johnny's in the news it sells more tickets and jerseys, so there just might be some benefit there. The team? The implication that Manziel would be in the Browns' complex studying film were he not taking selfish selfies and thus is setting back his development as a quarterback by decades is ludicrous. Manziel? It's certainly building his brand, which means more endorsement deals, which means more money. Pick your beneficial; at worst you're value-neutral. 

But the larger issue at play here is a cultural one. Manziel's a 21 year old (rich) kid with a smartphone. Of course he's going to take selfies with celebrities if the opportunity arises, just like every other 21 year old with a smartphone on the planet. This is how the world works now. Raging against it because in your day, we didn't snap polaroids of ourselves with Vanilla Ice (the closest comparison I can come up with to Justin Bieber) and tape them to our foreheads simply makes you look like gramps on the porch complaining about the damn kids. Better to understand who things have changed and judge player actions based on that than risk looking like a fool because Joe Pisarcik never selfied back in the day, and Joe was one helluva quarterback. 

Part of it, of course, is that we want all of our quarterbacks to be Payton Manning levels of obsessive when it comes to football; how dare they do anything other than prepare to entertain us. At the same time, we demand personality from our entertainers, in part so we can turn on them and disapprove of the things that made them entertaining in the first place. Manziel's the latest and the first one to selfie with Drake, but you can draw a straight line from him back through Terrell Owens and Joe Namath and Paul Hornung and so on into the antediluvian days of the league. 

New Browns coach Mike Pettine has already gone on record as saying he is "alarmed" by Manziel's online presence. This is standard "instill new culture of responsibility" stuff from a coach nobody has heard of or has terribly high expectations for, red meat for the team's local media so they can discuss how tough coach Pettine is and how seriously he's taking his responsibilities. In reality, the team's best player is struggling with drug addiction and a tire fire of bad life choices that have come along with it, their owner just bought his way out of massive jail time for defrauding his customers, and they severely contorted their salary cap for years in order to keep their center away from Jacksonville.  There's a lot of stuff to be alarmed with when it comes to the Brown, the Great Tire Fire of the NFL, but Manziel's selfies are kind of low on the list.

Meanwhile, Ray Rice got two games and nobody's talking about Greg Hardy. Because priorities, man. 
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