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Friday, July 11, 2014
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Published: Tuesday, 8/20/2013 - Updated: 10 months ago

COMMENTARY

Let’s spread the blame in Manziel case

Idle thoughts, odds’n ends, stuff on the back burner.

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

Idle thoughts, odds’n ends, stuff on the back burner, etc.:

Regardless of the outcome of the Johnny Manziel (aka Johnny Football) investigation into his allegedly taking money in return for signing memorabilia, hopefully we can all agree that we are to some small degree at fault.

Manziel won the Heisman Trophy last year as a freshman quarterback at Texas A&M. He turned 20 years old in December. It seems as if he didn’t know whether to embrace the fame or run from it. But a mixed up kid may have decided to exploit it, perhaps with help from friends.

It has been alleged that he signed pieces — make that piles — of memorabilia for multiple payments, at least one of five figures, although the NCAA will need clear evidence of money changing hands. The autograph brokers don’t seem inclined to help the NCAA make its case.

If it is made, Manziel will be ineligible for a while. Former Georgia star A.J. Green was suspended four games in 2010 for selling a jersey for $1,000, and we all remember the five-game suspensions several Ohio State players got for selling or trading memorabilia for services. That all seems small time compared to what Manziel is accused.

We won’t broach the subject of fairness, of universities making millions of dollars off athletes’ images and names and numbers while the athletes themselves struggle to come up with pizza money. The suggestion that it’s a fair trade for a college education seems so old school. Maybe another day.

But think about all this the next time you hear of a high school holding a signing day press conference — they should be banned and/​or we, the media, should completely ignore them — or you consider watching a prep game on national TV, or even the Little League World Series, for that matter.

When we confer fame on teenagers, some of whom haven’t shaved yet, for their athletic exploits, we blur the lines about entitlement. And, out in the real world, it can be difficult for kids like Johnny Football to bring those blurs back into focus.

■ Well, well. Will wonders never cease? On appeal, the NCAA finally got one right.

After originally ruling that a Marine Corps veteran was ineligible for college football since he didn’t immediately enroll in college out of high school and had played in a service recreational league, the NCAA gave the go-ahead for Steven Rhodes to have four years of eligibility at Middle Tennessee State.

This was all about PR and saving face for a much-maligned organization that rarely veers from its obese, obtuse, and too often inflexible rulebook.

■ I don’t know when an arbiter will get around to Alex Rodriguez’s appeal of his 211-game, serial-drug-cheat suspension, but the lead-up is about as entertaining as anything in sports.

A headline on the New York Daily News Web site Tuesday said: “Alex Rodriguez’s new lawyer has conflict of interest, says Brian Cashman’s alleged mistress.”

Cashman, of course, is the Yankees’ general manager. Only in New York.

■ Radio talker Norm Wamer points out that Max Scherzer’s remarkable streak for the Detroit Tigers — he’s 18-1 this season — stretches back to late June of last year.

Before a start on June 28, 2012, Scherzer was 6-5 with a 5.12 ERA and had a rather mundane career record of 42-40. But he won 10 of his last 12 decisions in 2012 meaning he is 28-3 since.

On Saturday, Scherzer is scheduled to start against Matt Harvey of the Mets for the second time this season. The first time was in the All-Star Game. Entering Saturday’s game, Harvey (9-4, 2.25 ERA) has 187 strikeouts against 31 walks. Scherzer (2.82 ERA) has posted 185 strikeouts while issuing 38 walks. Wow.

■ Manager Jim Leyland agreed with a reporter’s comment that Scherzer is the Tigers’ “horse” during his postgame interview last Sunday. But we’ll see how literally to take that. When Leyland gets around to establishing his postseason rotation, do you think Scherzer or Justin Verlander will be at the front of the line? Just askin’.

■ Kudos to the Tigers for their attention to yet another fine Triple-A team this summer at Fifth Third Field. Yes, that’s sarcasm.

■ And despite those last-place Hens and the up-and-down, on-ice success of our Walleye hockey franchise, Toledo has been anointed the No. 1 minor league market in the country by Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal. There’s nothing wrong with being “minor league,” and there’s certainly nothing wrong with being No. 1.

This tribute is based largely on attendance, which is a nod to two truly fine venues and a deft marketing touch by the Mud Hens and Walleye that transforms games into family friendly entertainment, senior-friendly pricing, and young-adult party central — all at the same time.

■ RIP, Elmore Leonard. America has maybe a dozen truly great novelists, and you were way up that list.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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