New BWW Series - TRANSLATING SPORTS: College Football Edition
Last week I began a quest to unite two quintessentially American institutions; sports and musical theatre. Though this might be nothing more than an impossible dream, this is my quest, to follow that goal, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far... I have to take this metaphor.
In this week's edition of TRASLATING SPORTS, I will attempt to provide you with enough college football information so that you won't be left with nothing more than a vegetarian bratwurst and a confused look on your face at your neighbor's Labor Day cookout.
I will specifically answer the two most important questions, that you didn't know to ask, going into the new season:
First, who is Johnny Manziel and why does he have to sit in time-out for 30 minutes on Saturday before he can go out and play with friends? And, second, how do I sound like I know what I am talking about when someone asks me who I think is going to win the National Championship?
Ok, let's start with Johnny Manziel (pronounced Man-'zell), a.k.a. Johnny Football, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. The Heisman Trophy is arguably the most prestigious individual award in all of sports, and undoubtedly the highest honor in college football. Think of it as the individual equivalent of the Tony for Best Musical. Even though there is a new one each year, you will always be known as "Heisman Winner Johnny Manziel," or "Best Musical TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA" (I still can't get over the fact that it beat FOLLIES and GREASE).
Well, after his storybook season, Johnny Football had a summer that he would like to forget; from getting into fights at bars and frat parties to getting fired as an instructor at the prestigious Manning Passing Academy. Manziel was asked to leave the academy, where he was serving as an instructor, after missing a morning meeting, allegedly, because he was too hung-over to get out of bed.
Considering that the Mannings are currently football's first family, this did not sit well with a lot of fans and members of the media. You might be familiar with the Manning Brothers, Peyton and Eli, and dad Archie, from SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, every third television commercial, or the hilarious/horrifying "Football on your Phone" music video:
As the summer ended though, Manziel's problems only got worse as ESPN reported that he had autographed thousands of items for memorabilia brokers in exchange for a numberous five-figure flat fees. Now, you might be asking, "Why is it a problem if someone wants to pay him for his autograph? I'm sure Galt MacDermot would do it in a heartbeat."
The problem is that the NCAA strictly prohibits student-athletes from profiting from their athletic endeavors in an attempt to maintain the purity of their amateurism (while also keeping billions of dollars made for themselves). This is the single most important rule that all college athletes, in any sport, are taught from day one on campus. Similarly, the cardinal rule in Major League Baseball is "Don't bet on Baseball," in the NFL it is, "If You Murder Someone, Don't Leave Witnesses," and in the NBA, "It's Not a Party without Cristal and Funyuns."
Even Actors Equity has their cardinal rule, "Do Not Perform without an Equity Contract." The differences really end there though; as Equity wants to ensure fair treatment and equitable pay for its members and the NCAA looks to disenfranchise their athletes while making billions upon billions of dollars off of their talents and likenesses (we will have more on the NCAA hypocrisy in a TRANSLATING SPORTS in September).
Despite the fact that multiple sources have come forward to media outlets with information regarding payments made to Manziel, the NCAA (which has no subpoena power) couldn't get these individuals to talk to them; so fearing losing their largest cash-cow, the NCAA suspended Manziel for the first half of the season opener; a punishment made even more laughable by the fact that, given the low-level opponent (Rice University), Johnny Football probably only would have played half of the game anyway.
For the Equity members out there, if you not only performed without an Equity contract once, but did it half a dozen times in a handful of months, would the punishment be having to miss Act I during the first preview performance? Somehow I doubt it.