Social media unleashes a new generation of Broadway Joes

If a player wants to stand out these days, social media has made it almost too easy

NFL: Super Bowl XLVIII-Denver Broncos vs Seattle Seahawks

New York Jets former quarterback Joe Namath before Super Bowl XLVIII between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium. (Joe Camporeale, Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports / February 2, 2014)

Vince Lombardi was in the hospital dying of colon cancer. He awoke one night, and from the deepest part of his soul bellowed a warning to the world.

"Joe Namath! You're not bigger than football. Remember that!"

If Lombardi had lived, what would he say now? The media communication explosion has inspired an army of mini-Namaths.

Individually, they aren't bigger than the game. You could even argue that by raising their profiles, they are enhancing the game. Johnny Manziel's party pictures have helped millions of people remember Cleveland actually has a football team.

But Johnny Football is also threatening the ethos that has ruled the game since Walter Camp first devised the line of scrimmage.

Team over individual.

Sportsmanship is more important than showmanship.

Humility breeds success.

Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and around-the-clock TV exposure do not.

"It's the biggest problem to developing a team there is," Lee Corso said. "Guys are tweeting and twittering and nobody is thinking about the team."

Before he became famous for putting on mascot heads for ESPN's College GameDay, Corso spent 27 years as a coach. Compared to authority figures like Bear Bryant and Woody Hayes, Corso was a raving liberal. But even he would have cringed if a player pulled a Richard Sherman.

"I'm the best corner in the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that the result you gonna get. Don't you ever talk to me…. Don't you open your mouth about the best, or I'm gonna shut it for you real quick."

So went the rant heard 'round the world after last season's NFC championship, where Sherman intercepted the would-be winning pass to Michael Crabtree.

After winning the Super Bowl, Seattle's cornerback spent his off-season engaging in Twitter wars with LeGarrette Blount, DeAngelo Hall, Patrick Peterson and anyone else who remotely questioned his football superiority.

Johnny Football

Meanwhile, Cleveland executives spent the past few months secretly trying to get the NSA to shut down the social media accounts of everyone who got within 20 feet of Manziel.

There was no telling where Manziel might pop up. At Fenway Park surrounded by babes. At Justin Beiber's pad surrounded by cops. On an inflatable swan swigging a bottle of champagne. In a bar bathroom with a $20 bill rolled up and ready for who-knows-what?

Hey, didn't that happen to Bart Starr once?

Not quite. And if it had, Lombardi would have personally punted his quarterback's iPhone into Lake Michigan.

Though he was from Brooklyn, Green Bay's legendary coach epitomized Middle American values. His death-bed outburst was chronicled in the book "When Pride Still Mattered." Author David Maraniss wrote how Lombardi had spent his final years fretting over the rise of rebelliousness in America.


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