COMMENTARY — It’s my fault, Crimson Tide fans.
It was the first time in four years that I ventured a question during the three-ring circus known as SEC Media Days. Previously, I had been content to leave the inquiries to the big-media guys, particularly the ones who cover college football every day.
But this time, with all the fuss about Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and his departure from the Manning Passing Camp the week before under somewhat dubious circumstances, the guy from the little bitty paper that no one outside metro Birmingham ever heard of decided to take a swing.
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron had taken his place at one of the three tables set up in the corners of the main media room at the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover. I knew that he and Manziel were roommates at the Manning camp, which meant that McCarron should know if what “Johnny Football” said about oversleeping was true.
McCarron was on a roll about how he had always been raised to represent his family name, his school and his team in the best way possible. Some pundits read that as a veiled reference to Manziel and his apparent failure to do the same.
I was a little more direct. “Two-part question: How has Manziel’s off-field issues affected how you conduct yourself, and are you buying what he said about oversleeping?” I asked.
McCarron responded with a line that was tailor-made for newspaper and Internet headlines, as well as television and radio sound bites. (And I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he had been coached by the Alabama staff to expect such a question, and to have a ready-made answer.)
“I can't answer on Johnny Manziel’s part,” he said. “My name is AJ.”
McCarron continued: “Everything that has to do with him, he’s his own man. I'm not going to speak on another man’s business. That’s how I was raised. If it don’t have nothing to do with you, don’t speak on it.”
The soft Lower Alabama drawl did not change, but what he said before and after revealed that McCarron had been “raised right,” as we like to say in the Deep South. Do your folks and your town proud, respect others, and let your actions speak louder than your words.
Not everybody out in cyberspace took his remarks that way, though some so-called “media” — and I use that term loosely — used it to go off on rants that sometimes had little to do with McCarron or Manziel. They are what I call hey-look-at-me pundits — I use the term “pundit” loosely, too — who merely try to get as many clicks as they can, and provoke people into seeing how outrageous (or stupid) they can be.
I particularly loathe the people on Youtube who use a shot of McCarron at the microphone for their freeze-frame preview, then don’t even show him in the video itself. Misleading, at best.
McCarron spent a fair amount of time last weekend tweeting about how he was not really dissing Manziel. He shouldn’t have had to do so, because the Tide passer went to considerable length to say how Manziel would have to speak for himself.
But with the advent of the Internet and the 24/7 news cycle, anyone with a computer and a WiFi signal can suddenly become legitimate “media.”
But then again, I guess that would also apply to a sports editor at a little bitty weekly newspaper on the north side of Birmingham.