As I sat on the couch watching my beloved Texas A&M Aggies take the field against the Rice Owls, a feeling of excitement washed over me. Football season had finally arrived.
I was not an Aggie fan growing up, a fact that changed when I registered for classes in the fall of 2005. So one could say this season is the most hyped Texas A&M has been since I joined the maroon and white family. With this excitement, and the allegations surrounding Johnny Manziel‘s autograph scandal, August 31 could not come fast enough.
On vacation in Southern California, I was shocked to find the Rice game was to be nationally televised, and on ESPN no less. Not only was Manziel suspended for the first half due to the autograph violations, but Rice has been a dormant football program basically its entire existence. They’ve only been to 10 bowl games in 101 years and boast a mediocre .440 all-time winning percentage. By most accounts, this game was expected to be a blowout.
ESPN knew exactly what it was doing. They know everyone (not wearing maroon Saturday afternoon) hates Johnny Football. Aggie fans wouldn’t be the only ones watching this game, a fact I got to see quite clearly on my Twitter feed during the game. One former ESPN employee even joked Rice had never had so many people cheering them on (definitely true, by the way). Witnessing all the hate spewed at my favorite team forced me to admire how quickly things have changed from a year ago.
Johnny Football was easily the most exciting player last year. He was fiery, intense, explosive, fast and just flat out good. It wasn’t hard to get excited watching him play even as a fan of another team. He trash talked, got into the faces of opposing players, picked up his teammates and was an incredible leader despite being a redshirt freshman.
Due to being unknown prior to the season, and coach Kevin Sumlin‘s rule of freshman not speaking to the media, Manziel remained in the dark off the field. As the legend of Johnny Football grew, Johnny Manziel stayed in the shadows. After winning the Heisman trophy, that changed in a hurry.
From appearances on talk shows, to hanging out with Drake, to sitting court side at basketball games and being seen enjoying the fruits of his labor (if you catch my drift), Manziel turned almost everyone against both him and the University. As we got more and more glimpses of the luxurious lifestyle provided to him by his family, the hate spread like a virus.
Those who praised his athletic ability and awed at his excitement last year can now be heard analyzing his touchdown celebrations and watching his every move between plays (and somehow being able to hear what he says to opponents on the field, because they all “know” what he said to the Rice players). It’s a complete 180 that has nothing to do with football, which is ironic considering he hasn’t changed much, everyone just started paying attention.
It’s the culmination of a hilarious timeline for Texas A&M who, as a football program, went from probable laughing stock of the SEC, to the lovable underdogs who knocked off Alabama and shocked the world with an 11-2 record, to now likely the most hated team in the country because of one player.
Normally the public would root for the underdog in a matchup that includes the No. 1 team in the country, but you can bet your bottom dollar most of America will be pulling for the Tide on September 14.
The plight of Johnny Football is a sad thing for Texas A&M football fans—prideful by nature—to have to endure. But there is nothing we can do about it except pray there never becomes a moment when those naysayers get the chance to say “I told you so.”