Johnny Manziel is playing football this fall, and for that I am glad.
I am glad Johnny Manziel is playing football this year because he is the living embodiment of Texas A&M's insurgent assault on the SEC. Southeastern Conference newcomers aren't supposed to do this. Missouri, who joined the conference along with A&M, adjusted to their new league and went 5-7 in the process. The last two programs to join the conference before A&M and Mizzou -- South Carolina and Arkansas -- also posted losing records in their first seasons. In fact, no team had posted a winning record in its first SEC season since the conference was founded in 1932.
What did A&M do in its first year? Win 10 games, beat the nation's No. 1 team, pick up a Heisman Trophy, annihilate Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, and do it with an up-tempo offense led by a freshman who likes to party. It's both the least and most SEC thing ever.
I am glad Johnny Manziel is playing football this year because it makes Texas A&M-Alabama: Round 2 the must-see game that it should be.
Nick Saban has reduced football to a science experiment conducted in an antiseptic environment, free of contaminants and reduced to a single variable of his choosing. It is impressive but devoid of drama. Manziel is the fly in Saban's test tube, the thing he cannot account for, cannot control or limit or reduce to his will, and it's a joy to watch. If Saban is the villain from The Matrix, Johnny Manziel is Mr. Anderson becoming Neo.
I am glad Johnny Manziel is playing football this year because he does things like this:
And then when he throws out a first pitch, he does it again:
I am glad that Johnny Manziel is playing football this year because, even when you get past the yell leaders and ROTC formality, Texas A&M is one of the nation's craziest, weirdest, and most loyal fanbases. Good Bull Hunting is an asylum fully deserving of Manziel's insanity, both on and off the field.
I am glad that Johnny Manziel is playing football this year because he's made sure the Longhorns are still thinking about the Aggies.
I am glad that Johnny Manziel is playing football this year because A&M's chancellor defended him and attacked Darren Rovell, and he was right. (Even if Manziel took money, there's no proof.)
I am glad that Johnny Manziel is playing football this year because, before he had even become a household name, Aggie fans had given him the best sports nickname since Don Mattingly.
I am glad that Johnny Manziel is playing football this year because he does things like this:
And, when he's winning, he does things like this:
I am glad that Johnny Manziel is playing football this year because the Heisman Trophy winner isn't the CEO of a regional bank. He's a college kid, and he should do stupid-college-kid things. He should show up late for his summer job because he partied all night. He should drop late-night drama-heavy hints on Twitter for the world to see. He should cause a commotion at a rival school. Because if you didn't do those things or things of equivalent stupidity when you were in college, you didn't do college right.
I am glad that Johnny Manziel is playing football this year because, of all the stupid things he did this offseason, signing some autographs was about 24th on the list. Yes, Dez Bryant and Ohio State fans have reason to be angry at the lack of NCAA enforcement, but it doesn't change the fact that we seriously considered whether a guy should be prohibited from doing something he was clearly made to do -- and providing us with the joy of watching him do it -- because he signed some hats. Be like Johnny. Fight the power.
I am glad that Johnny Manziel is playing football this year because he is why I watch 16 hours of football on Saturday and turn off the television on Sunday. Even if Manziel makes it to the pros -- and opinions on that are decidedly mixed -- with our luck he will almost certainly be playing for some retread offensive coordinator trying to install the latest iteration of something Bill Walsh did two decades ago, a coach who will want him to stay in the pocket and manage the game. The scrambling, the jittery stutter-stepping while looking for a hole in the pocket, the PlayStation-worthy open field cuts: They will all be gone.
Sure, if he's fortunate, his NFL team will use him as a Wildcat quarterback or Pistol quarterback. But the torrent of media following his first misstep will make the coverage surrounding the autograph scandal look like a local news story on a new dog park. Mark Schlereth will be asked for his opinion. He will have an opinion.
And I am most glad that Johnny Manziel is playing football this year because we really only get two years of watching him do all of this. Losing one for any reason short of an actual crime would be a crime in and of itself.
Johnny Manziel is back. Let us be glad.