Jameis Winston not only is the best college football player in the country and a top pro prospect in both football and baseball. He also has claimed the crown as the undisputed King of Internet Click Bait … at least in the world of college football.
Call it Johnny Manziel's last collegiate pass, as in the torch he has delivered to Winston. If we didn't know this already, the national media have hammered the point home during these past few weeks.
First there was USA Today's over-the-top, made-for-TMZ headline about Winston and teammate Chris Casher being stopped by police for carrying a pellet gun near campus two years ago. I don't necessarily have a problem with the story being reported. Heck, even two years old, it's more newsworthy than earlier reports that Winston swiped a few sips of soda from a Burger King. But it was the way it was reported that had to make you queasy.
Combining the words "Winston," "police" and "gunpoint" in the same headline might have gotten some web producer tingly with excitement - "Imagine how many clicks this will get!" - but it was hardly a fair representation of the incident. They made it sound as if the SWAT team had to take Winston and Casher down after a standoff.
Then just the other day, there was the furor over Florida State's ill-fated #AskJameis social media campaign. Yes, that was a mistake on FSU's part. Yes, it was asking for trouble. But was it really worthy of headlines on national websites? Did it merit commentary from ESPN's talking heads? We can answer those questions with another: If it had involved any other college athlete in the country, would a word have been written?
Of course not. It was merely an opportunity to put Jameis Winston's name in a story and headline to draw some page views on an otherwise slow news day.
Obviously, no one is going to feel sorry for Jameis Winston or Florida State for receiving excess media attention. Most college football programs would kill for the type of exposure the Seminoles receive these days. And I get that you can't have it both ways. The bad comes with the good.
But at the same time, it would be nice if the national media could show just a modicum of restraint. Not every story that comes along has to become a Jameis Winston click-fest.
Easily the most ridiculous example came just this week when ESPN's producers inexplicably turned a practice altercation between FSU defensive back Jalen Ramsey and tailback Karlos Williams into a Jameis Winston story. The only thing Winston had to do with that entire episode was falling to the ground when Ramsey and Williams rolled into him. But when news broke that Ramsey had been thrown out of practice, ESPN's staffers saw the mention of Winston and couldn't contain themselves.
On "Pardon the Interruption," Michael Wilbon wondered if this was a sign that Winston has become a prima donna - as if an FSU defensive player was disciplined for daring to lay a finger on him. The headline for the topic was, "Too protective of Winston?"
Seriously. That happened.
ESPN's Paul Finebaum, of course, couldn't resist the urge either. He went on the air and criticized Winston for getting into an altercation with Ramsey during practice.
Umm … yeah.
To be clear, no one has a problem with superstar athletes receiving media scrutiny. It's part of the deal. The legions of fans and (potentially) millions of dollars don't come without a price.
But it's not too much to ask for the media to hold themselves to a higher standard. Yes, page views are important. Yes, we're all chasing advertising dollars. But we also can have some self-respect. And patience.
College football season begins in two weeks. On Aug. 30, the Florida State Seminoles will begin their quest to win a second consecutive national championship.
Jameis Winston, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, will line up at quarterback.
Something tells me he'll give us plenty to write about then.
Warchant.com managing editor Ira Schoffel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @IraSchoffel on Twitter.