I watched much of last night’s Mavs-Heat game with the sound off. It was nothing against any of the announcers; I was just doing other things and wanted to be able to keep tabs on the action without being totally sucked in. And in hindsight, I’m pretty satisfied with my decision, because it allowed me to miss this while it happened:
That’s Steve Kerr doing a joking (very, very dryly joking), not-sayin’-just-sayin’ bit about how it’s mighty curious that a Heisman winner like Johnny Manziel, playing in that notoriously dirty SEC (Kerr played his college hoops at the perfectly clean University of Arizona, not sayin’ just sayin’), would score such prime seats when the defending champs came to town.
And of course, upon the camera pointing out Johnny Football and Kerr’s back-and-forth with his broadcast partners, it immediately became an Internet Thing, enough of one to provoke actual serious responses explaining how Manziel might have indeed been able to afford such tickets (his well-to-do family, for example). It provoked such a reaction, in fact, that both Kerr:
Hey A&M fans- I was just kidding!!! We were just having a little fun on the telecast.Fun to see Johnny Football courtside in Dallas…
— Steve Kerr (@SteveKerrTNT) December 21, 2012
and Manziel himself:
Bought myself a little birthday present tonight stop hating! #HEATvsMAVS
— Johnny Manziel (@JManziel2) December 21, 2012
were moved to chime in. In Kerr’s case: needless to say, if you have to explain that you were joking, the joke probably missed the mark. And, safe to say, this one did just that. Most people seemed to get that he was kidding, but Kerr kept the bit going for so long that it made it hard not to start thinking, “Wait, does he maybe actually think this and he’s using this (barely) joking tone to cover it up?” And that doesn’t even get into how even joking about a college athlete – especially one as famous as Manziel – breaking rules in front of a large audience is probably going to bring sone unwanted attention on the kid, no matter your intentions… and therefore is probably something that’s best to avoid.
As for Manziel: yeah, his family has money and he got the tickets himself, so Kerr’s joke was in fact just that, and in no way indicative of actual rule-breaking. That’s all well and good. But a good point was raised here: should the way he got those tickets even be an issue here? Thought experiment time: imagine Manziel couldn’t afford the tickets. Think about what that would mean: someone with a clearly-valuable skill – a skill the school he plays for is directly capitalizing on to generate revenue – can’t even take enough advantage of it to buy some good basketball tickets. This scenario isn’t the least bit far-fetched, and it’s all thanks to amateurism rules.
Everything about this barely-a-story was wrong on some level. Kerr, despite his best intentions, shouldn’t have gone where he did, because the result was putting a kid on the defensive about breaking a rule – a rule that, oh by the way, shouldn’t exist to begin with. And then, by making it an Internet Thing (and obviously, I am now a part of this myself), we all helped put Manziel in a position where he felt the need to defend himself, when he really shouldn’t have at all. Luckily, we confidently predict this Internet Thing will end where so many did before it – oblivion, and quickly.