We are going to assume that you've already read the coverage surrounding Johnny Manziel and his omnipresent signatures. In particular, we'd like for you to acquaint yourself with Wright Thompson's brilliant look from within the Manziel family bubble.
Up to speed? Good.
Wright Thompson is a true professional, and as a former reporter myself I can admire his process.
- Insert yourself into a place of interest
- Pay attention, seeking the details that reveal humanity and motive
- Let the audience draw their own conclusions.
However, Thompson might not have asked the right questions of a very key player in this story: Wright Thompson.
"Did I really talk with all the people I needed to? Did I talk with the right people? Did I take some things at face value?"
Reading the various pieces, what strikes me is just how obsessed the members of the Manziel family are with the avalanche of autograph requests. Reams and reams of photos, and odd objects, and things in the trunk. Why, if we could only cut it back to an hour a week. If we could only go golfing without Dad bringing "the usual half-dozen items" from the dealership to the golf course...
Makes me wonder. Is there someone at the dealership who can verify all the items that come in? Rather convenient that those items are there as props, to propel the discussion point. If I were there, and had more time, I might ask a couple of the employees at the dealership about the strangest items ever brought in for signature. But I'd certainly try to get a more objective gauge of the volume.
Let's look at this a different way. Let's say, for argument, that someone realized that Johnny and Nate's extravagant signing binges had led to a giant supply of autographed items on the market. Let's say that you wanted to explain how natural that would be, and that it wouldn't be evidence of intentional mass-signing sessions with dealers and peddlers. Let's say you've got a reporter coming in, and the chance to really beef up the story...
The only way the above scenario makes sense is if there was already some heat generating. Someone asking questions about the stockpile of #2's Johnny Hancock. Quiet the rumors, and make it seem like it is just ordinary business of the day for Johnny to sign hundreds of things a week. Because if you have enough people supporting that story, then the reporters won't poke. Nothing to see here, this is just an ordinary day...
I could be wrong. I probably am. But deep down, I don't know if Wright has asked himself if what he saw was reality, or what the family and handlers of an immature and impulsive football prodigy wanted him to see.