The ideas represented in this piece are completely uneducated, off the cuff and as ridiculous as the ideas often expressed by amateur political commentators or sports and entertainment aficianados. This attempt to find meaning in the preseason was written after 12 hours of consecutive binge watching of All-22 film, Vines from every angle, tweets and absurd network coverage of Michael Sam’s sack of Johnny Football. Tongue was planted firmly in cheek, but at some point the author may or may not have begun believing what he was writing.
Once upon a time, a cocksure defensive tackle named Warren Sapp met an impetuous, gun slinging signal caller named Brett Favre. Favre was sacked by Sapp 11 times in 17 meetings. Without access to statistics identifying which defensive players sacked which quarterbacks most often, we'll just use those two as the gold standard for quarterback-lineman rivalries.
They butted heads, battled for supremacy and eventually found common ground. Eighteen years after Sapp and Favre first familiarized themselves with one another, the forces of light and dark converged in St. Louis on Saturday night. Two rookies from opposite ends of the line of scrimmage, who have fed the media’s voracious tabloid appetites took the field in the second half of the Browns and Rams’ penultimate preseason clash in what could only be described as the Sharknado of sports-pop culture-social media era rivalries.
Michael Sam vs. Johnny Manziel. One’s a situational pass rusher turned social icon. The other is an iconic rushing quarterback with a wild social life.
Sam’s admission to being gay in February catapulted him into the limelight and polarized his previously nondescript national profile. Sam is the player whose personal life, macho football fans would prefer be kept out of the public sphere.
Conversely, Manziel’s personal life is a common topic for football junkies to broach. Unlike Sapp and Favre, neither appear Hall of Fame worthy—yet, but they’re already pop culture phenoms in their early 20s.
Hard Knocks is an HBO tradition, but Sam’s nixed reality show is the only NFL unscripted melodrama that could have matched his surreality.
Even before their preseason clash, Virginia sportswriter Tim Hayes had a premonition.
— Tim Hayes (@Hayes_BHCSports) August 23, 2014
Some cynics call Manziel a poor man’s Romo. Romo is considered a poor man’s Favre, which makes Manziel a destitute man’s Favre. Those people can’t explain to me how his jersey is already the NFL’s No. 1 jersey seller or ignore that he’s already got.
Manziel’s game may be more similar to Dylan Favre, than Brett, but don’t be stupid enough to think that’s an insult.
Tom Brady’s defensive foil is Bernard Pollard. Michael Crabtree has Richard Sherman to ruffle his feathers. And Sam and Manziel have history that’s been steaming in an SEC pot for two years. Ever since they were both transferred from the Big 12 to the SEC during the Great Conference Realignment of 2012, Sam has been chasing Manziel.
And then, amidst the eerie preseason social media calm, it happened. Sam finally caught Manziel and when everyone was done gasping, a Twitter stampede erupted.
Sacks are fairly common occurrences, which don’t merit too much over analysis, however, Sam sacking Manziel had the social media flammability of the black and white Jay Z-Solange elevator video. FYI, Manziel’s right tackle was Beyonce watching it helplessly take place.
The only thing that could have finished off humanity would have been a disgruntled Manziel giving Sam the bird as he trotted back to the sideline on fourth down, passing newly signed Browns punt protector Tim Tebow (familiar with Mike Pettine from his Jets days) and the special teams unit. Skip Bayless would have been speaking in emojis on Sunday.
The money fingers salute was an adlib no one could have envisioned though.
Someday we’ll look back at Sam following up his first sack of Johnny Football with the money fingers as the escalation point. ESPN SportsScience would need a hadron collider to simulate the physics of Sam’s sack of Manziel, because it may have been the progenitor of another great NFL rivalry.
It wasn’t the most tweeted moment in NFL history. It may have been the most tweeted moment in preseason history.
This guy sees the potential.
Johnny Manziel VS Michael Sam. Most legendary matchup in nfl history. #sporty
— matthew beebe (@Beebes_3) August 23, 2014
For one super fan, it may result in financial ruin.
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) August 24, 2014
The space-time continuum remained intact and the Twitter whale didn’t explode, however, the aftershock of Sam-Manziel collision set off a 6.0 magnitude earthquake in Northern California.
If you are reading this, then that means the Internet did not implode and we are not living in a post-web world. Of course, the Browns and Sam aren’t in the same division like Favre and Sapp. If NFL schedule makers are listening, then it should be clear that the people have spoken. Rams v. Browns should be an annual fixture. Or Sam should eventually migrate to the AFC North.
On the evening Sam Bradford’s Rams career ended for all intents and purposes, Sam’s legend added another chapter. Manziel actually submitted his best effort yet as a pro, but all anyone will remember is “the sack”. And that’s the way it should be.