Our September cover brought out the Monday morning quarterbacks. Some questioned our choice of cover boy—and his portrayal as a high-flying superhero. Others took offense at our use of a certain vulgarity. But our favorite means of second-guessing came from a handful of clever critics who offered up alternative treatments of the image itself. Within minutes of our tweeting out the cover, @edsbs hit us with a “Fixed the Manziel cover for you, @TexasMonthly.” His wit was matched by @BowTieNinja (who layered on a little Longhorn spirit) and @cuppycup (who also riffed on the autographs-for-dollars controversy swirling around our subject). We’ll keep their contact info on file in case the art department has an opening.

 And now, a sampling of feedback from our readers:

Johnny on the Spot

Are you serious? A superhero? A college athlete with a diva-like personality should not be honored as such [“Who Is Johnny Football?”]. This story is exactly what digs journalism deeper into the ground. Grab your shovels, Texas Monthly
Veronica Salinas, via Facebook

Embarrassing and disgusting. That’s the best way to describe the September 2013 issue of  texas monthly. Not only did you put Johnny Manziel on the cover, you used “JOHNNY  F#@%ING  FOOTBALL” on the cover. You continued the “f—ing” theme in Jake Silverstein’s column (Editor’s Letter) and in the headline of Jason Cohen’s article (Behind the Lines). Your poor taste has left us no choice but to now refer to you as that “f—ing Texas Monthly.” I hope you’re F#@%ING happy!
Tom Burke, Fort Worth

You know, I think this is an impressive shot. I mean, how did you guys fit him between the green screen and the camera without his big head knocking them over? 
Katie Canant, via Facebook

@TexasMonthly, this should be your cover from now to the end of time. 

I am so sick of hearing about Johnny Football (who has won only one significant game in his college career) I could puke. 
Gerald Tinnon, via Facebook

Shame on you, Texas Monthly! After all of Johnny Manziel’s antics of late, you put him on the cover while the fallen West firefighters are the back story? Terrible. 
Shelly Scarbrough, Houston

It’s bad enough that mainstream media tries to shove profane language at us at every turn, but I am truly disgusted and disappointed that Texas Monthly has chosen to use it on its September cover. Really, you are supposed to be journalists. Use your adjectives, not your #&%@, to express yourselves, and keep it clean for us Southerners who still have the decency to become outraged over inappropriate language. 
Myrna Boulter, Plains

Money Ball

So, Mr. Cohen, you feel that paying players is going to solve many of the problems in college football (“College F—ing Football”)? I beg to differ. Yes, the love of money has corrupted college football at a number of levels, but putting more of that money in the hands of players is only going to add another level of corruption and take us further from the cherished traditions, long-standing rivalries, and playing for the love of the game that once made college football great. You want everyone to break the rules so the rules can be changed, but then what’s going to happen? Will college players collectively strike if their compensation isn’t sufficient? And will they strike at the level of their individual college, or will they strike nationally? Will the smaller schools eventually drop out of football if they can’t come up with the money? How many more staff will athletic departments have to add in order to determine who gets paid what? If a player has a bad season, does he get paid less the next season? Or will a college try and pay a particular player more, at the expense of other players, to keep him from going to the NFL?  

Let’s not kid ourselves here. Paying college football players (and presumably male basketball players, who won’t want to miss out on the action), even if it is the right thing to do, will create far more problems than it will solve. In your effort to focus on how players should be treated more fairly, which is a justifiable concern, you failed to discuss the most serious problem in high-profile sports, and that is the failure to make the teaching of good character a priority. The bad behavior that is tolerated these days, on the part of players, coaches, athletic directors, and even college presidents, is what is causing so many of us to be disillusioned by college sports, as well as sports in general. Frankly, I think it is time for the fans to go on strike. Without our money to buy the tickets and the hats and the T-shirts, or without us there to turn on our televisions on Saturdays to watch the games, there wouldn’t be much to fight over, and we would need far fewer rules. I am not naive enough to think this will actually happen, or to think that things will get better before they get worse, but let’s at least be honest with ourselves about the root of the problem.
Audrey Schneider, Lafayette, Indiana (formerly of Boerne)

What a journalistic fantasy to convert recipients of coveted football scholarships into victims. Jason Cohen compares college football players who receive educations worth approximately $125,000 (remember, they get five years) to the tobacco industry, which sells poison to create addicts. He pities Ryan Swope, who got a college education paid for by others, because an injury prevents him from also playing pro football. He considers it a risk that athletes might become well educated and actually use their degrees instead of becoming professional athletes. His attempt to diminish athletic scholarships because they are renewable on an annual basis only makes them like many academic scholarships. If a recipient drops below a 3.5 or 3.0 GPA, he loses his scholarship. The vast majority of these young men would never have the opportunity to obtain a college degree but for these valuable scholarships.
Dennis Herlong, Houston

Poor Johnny Manziel! From the sound of Mr. Cohen’s article, somebody put a gun to poor Johnny’s head and forced him to play football for A&M and, at large, the NCAA. Comparing the NCAA to a plantation owner is laughable. No one forced poor Johnny into anything, and judging by his behavior in bars and other public places, he is not one to be held up for sainthood. Methinks he grew up as a little rich kid who was spoiled beyond belief or he wouldn’t think he is “entitled” to anything he wants. Grow up, Johnny! Realize that there are rules for a reason and that normal people all have to follow them. We don’t get to pick and choose the ones that suit us.

As far as Ryan Swope is concerned, he made a choice, just like all other student athletes who get scholarships. To get the free ride, they have to play the game. No one forces them. That isn’t the only way to pay for college. That is just the easy way. The rest of us had to work our tails off doing something truly constructive with our lives.
Theresa Doepp, San Antonio

Hell in a Handbag

Thanks, TM, for the wonderful article “Made in Texas.” However, I have to inform you that you may be added as a party in a divorce suit to be filed by my spouse. I just spent $6,550 on quilts and handbags. Oh, well. Even though we have been married 34 years, I believe the quilts and purses will last much longer. Just sayin’.
Connie Taylor, via email

Fair Share

Like every other Texas kid who loved the state fair, I remember exactly where I was when I saw the pictures of our beloved Big Tex having his unspeakable accident [“Big Tex, My Big Tex”]. Yes, there were real tears. After his demise I found out so much more about his past and was heartened to know that other children were instructed to go stand next to his boot if they got lost. Fritos and Blue Bell would have been a great incentive. I like the Matthew Diffee version of my icon—a bunch. Is it my imagination or does he bear an uncanny likeness to my other Texas hero, Ray Krebbs?
Carolyn Nutt, via email

Matter of Opinion

As a conservative, I often have to restrain my outrage when I read the liberal tripe common to many of your articles. Unfortunately, you’re still the best place to find out about all things Texas. I would prefer, however, that articles like “Help Unwanted” be properly labeled as editorials rather than reports. Michael Ennis is apparently unabashedly liberal. His article on illegal immigrants could hardly be more biased in exalting them and faulting and maligning his political counterparts. If  Texas Monthly has to publish such demagoguery, you could at least present it as the opinion piece that it is.
Eric Sparrgrove, Katy