For once, this won't be about Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. He's a major character in the story, but there's a bigger picture involved.
At some point Manziel threw up the "Hook 'em horns" sign that Longhorns fans use and some people freaked out. Because of the rivalry between Texas and Texas A&M, of course. He might have been referring to a picture taken at a concert, he says it was during his spring break trip – again, these details aren't a big deal because this isn't about Manziel.
“I understand the rivalry that is between A&M and Texas," Manziel said, “but for me – [Texas running back] Malcolm Brown has been one of my great friends since high school. There are guys on that team that I’ve grown relationships with. Cayleb Jones, I still talk to him on almost a weekly basis. All my friends from high school go there. For me, it’s not a rivalry. We got out of that conference, we’re not playing them anymore. It’s not a big deal. To me, it’s just like if I was flashing any other school sign, and just because it is Texas, it’s made out to be a big deal.”
And here's where we get to the important point. Manziel is right. It's not a rivalry anymore. As schools trip over themselves to make every cent during realignment and trample fans to get there, this is part of the collateral damage.
Texas A&M and Texas fans might still feel the rivalry in their blood, but they're holding onto something that doesn't exist in reality anymore. Why would a player like Manziel think it's a rivalry or have any feelings about the other school? The schools aren't in the same conference. They don't play anymore. The players, especially the many from the state, have friends on the other team, as Manziel alluded to. An 18-year-old kid going to either school has no reason to get fired up about the long-gone rival, and those already dying feelings will get weaker and weaker with every recruiting class from here on out.
One of the great rivalries in college football is dead. "It's not a big deal." That's sad. It's correct, too.
A member of the Texas House of Representatives introduced a bill in January that would require a game between the teams, but that's a desperate attempt to resuscitate a dead rivalry. So is any outrage about Texas A&M's best player using the "hook 'em horns" sign. All that shows is that people on the outside still care, but nobody involved is listening anymore. The schools have moved on. Texas A&M has the fame and fortune of the SEC and the Longhorns have a bed of money from their television network.
It just took a 20-year-old quarterback to say what nobody really wants to admit.