Athletes with transcendent abilities can only get away with being “just” a superstar performer for so long. When the big payoff comes — whether in the form of an award, a championship or some other recognition of their success — they become brands.
Johnny Manziel used to be “just” a quarterback. Then, with every touchdown pass he threw or ran for and every head-turning highlight he generated, he became a quarterback and then some. When he was awarded the Heisman in December, “Johnny Football” was well-known even to people who had never seen a college football game in their life.
That near-universal recognition has come with a cost. No, Manziel isn’t overburdened with the added attention. If anything, he loves the spotlight. But in this age of sports stars as brands, Manziel’s “Johnny being Johnny” habits might not have a place.