Judging by Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel's shameful antics in the Aggies' season opener against Rice, I thought the Heisman-winning QB was auditioning for the 21st-century adaptation of Clint Eastwood's classic western "A Fistful of Dollars."
During last Saturday's game, Manziel taunted Rice defenders by raising his arms and rubbing his fingers together in the universal symbol of raking in cash.
But that wasn't enough humiliation for Johnny Football. He furthered the Owls' misery by making hand gestures as if he was signing autographs.
The purpose of all this punkish on-field behavior by Manziel? It was his arrogant way of thumbing his nose at the NCAA.
And he made sure everyone -- most especially the gutless NCAA corporate suits in Indianapolis -- saw it.
Earlier this year, Manziel nearly forfeited his college eligibility by signing autographs for money -- thereby losing his status as an amateur. We can only assume that Manziel actually violated this NCAA rule because he was suspended for -- gasp -- the first half of the Aggies' season opener against Rice because of what the school termed Manziel's "inadvertent violation" of the rule.
But then, the NCAA, in perhaps the fastest investigation in history, said it couldn't find any evidence that Manziel actually received money for the autographs. This despite the fact that Manziel was suspended for violating this very rule.
So we are told that Manziel did it, but he didn't do it.
Which is it?
Considering that this wink-and-a-nod investigation was quicker than a plane flight from Indianapolis to College Station, it's difficult to imagine there was a whole lot of shoeleather involved in trying to uncover what should have been Manziel's career-ending transgression.
Which begs the following: Why was the investigation so superficial? Why was he suspended for the first half of the Rice game for violating the rule, only to have the NCAA tell us they found no evidence that he violated the rule? And to add to the confusion, why would Texas A&M say it was "inadvertent," thereby admitting he broke the rule, only for the NCAA to tell us he didn't break the rule, and then for Manziel to be suspended by his school for breaking the rule?
It's so confusing, I can't come up with a way to write it so that it makes sense.
Because it doesn't.
Which, of course, begs the ultimate question: Why is Manziel being cut so much slack?
Even Johnny Football thinks it's all a big joke. His antics toward the Rice players when he did enter the game in the second half proved that.
He's telling everyone, "Yeah, I did it. I got money for autographs. What are you going to do about it?"
Nothing, Johnny. You can rest easy, because nobody is going to do anything about it. Not the NCAA, certainly not the lax authorities in the Southeastern Conference, not Texas A&M University, not Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin.
And Johnny knows it.
Because Johnny has three things going for him: He brings in truckloads of cash for people of power, he is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.
And he's a white quarterback.
A black quarterback in big-time college football would have been shown the door immediately.
Just ask former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
Pryor was involved in the memorabilia-for-tattoos scandal at Ohio State a few years ago, when Pryor and a small handful of Buckeye teammates were caught exchanging OSU paraphernalia for tattoos.
They, too, claimed ignorance of the NCAA rule, stating that since they owned these items, they were unaware that they could not exchange them for discounted or free tattoos.
The fly in the ointment was that these items were first given to them by the university, and therefore could not be exchanged for personal gain.
The players said they were unaware of this stipulation, but the NCAA insisted that was no excuse.
Pryor did not commit a crime. He claimed ignorance of the rule. He merely exchanged items that he owned for tattoos.
And he never played another down of college football.
Pryor is black.
(The Cam Newton situation at Auburn does not apply here, because Newton had already declared for the NFL Draft, therefore giving up his college eligibility).
Manziel, on the other hand, has run afoul of the law more than once, including a 2012 arrest stemming from a late-night fight in College Station that resulted in his being charged with three misdemeanors: Disorderly conduct, failure to identify, and possession of a fictitious driver's license.
How did the fight start? Manziel was with a friend who was shouting racial slurs at a man on the street.
How was Manziel punished by Texas A&M for his arrest? By being named the Aggies' starting quarterback.
Sorry, but I expect a little more discipline than that from a school that serves as a Senior Military College with a full-time, volunteer Corps of Cadets.
Manziel also had several issues in the 2013 off-season, including the paid autograph violation.
In spite of all that, Manziel's grand punishment was sitting out one half of the 2013 season opener against an outmanned Rice team.
How the NCAA's blatant institutional double-standard (dare I say racism?) in its polar-opposite handling of the Pryor and Manziel situations -- either by design or by accident -- is able to occur unchallenged is disturbing.
This is absolutely unacceptable. If Pryor's college football career was finished for exchanging items he owned for tattoos, then Manziel's career should be over for signing autographs for money. Simple as that.
And by the way, the investigation into Pryor lasted several months -- and likely longer, since the NCAA is less than forthcoming on the exact length of its investigations.
Manziel's dog-and-pony show of an investigation, by all accounts, lasted only a few days.
And when the NCAA was done, Manziel received a wink and a nod.
And a fistful of dollars.
Facebook: Tom Hardesty, Record-Courier