Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler.
Whether you are a member of the media and present by necessity, or if you are simply a fan sitting on your couch after midnight (that witching hour when ESPNews suddenly equates to programming gold), you have all been dragged through that same presser. The one where the coach tells you about how happy he is despite the loss, “because his guys competed for 40 minutes.” The one where the winning coach still isn’t that happy, because “this game was just another one on the schedule.” And yes, here comes the moment when both coaches admit to knowing they “can’t get too up or down about tonight” because the college basketball season is most surely a marathon, not a sprint. Coachspeak is everywhere these days, and with the mounting media attention on even the smallest of college programs, it’s difficult to blame coaches and players for sticking to this unoriginal script. They may be boring us as fans and media, but they become sure to avoid the negative PR that can accompany even the smallest of verbal missteps. So what happens when we find a coach or player who doesn’t seem to have received this most banal of memos? We pay attention. And right now, there are no two college athletes (in their respective sports) that we pay attention to more than Johnny “Football” Manziel and Marshall Henderson.
The tales of Manziel and Henderson are far from identical, but both are prominent college athletes who have drizzled a little extra flavor on their public personas (both on and off the field/court). Each has experienced the boon in media attention, fans, and Twitter followers that comes with not only being a standout on the court, but a colorful personality off it. However, armed with the nation’s collective eye, both have also felt the flip side of the fame – the inevitable backlash that comes when you take that reckless behavior a step too far. Manziel’s discretions have been less serious than those of Henderson, particularly in the eyes of the law, but his most recent blunder— leaving the Manning passing camp early due to alleged misbehavior — has had no problems finding every major news outlet. Henderson’s trouble-making at Ole Miss had largely been limited to brash behavior on the court and some equally unfiltered commentary off of it (#whitegirlwednesday) — that is, until he was indefinitely suspended last week after being arrested for cocaine and marijuana possession.