Somewhere out there, Johnny Manziel is raising his arm and rubbing his thumb along the tips of his index and middle fingers, making the money sign that he has claimed as his own personal signature. Sycophants cheer. Johnny struts. Let’s have a party.
Meanwhile, Manziel’s football career — and, more importantly, his life — circles the drain.
Earth to Johnny Football, and we don’t really have a nice way to say this: you’re a loser. You’ve become a pathetic, shallow person who now represents the worst of all things: unfulfilled promise. Your tantalizing ability amounts to a waste of talent. You can say whatever you want about your desire “to take care” of the issues in front of you, Johnny, but you won’t. Or at least you haven’t. And people are not judged on what they say, but what they do.
You’re a car wreck, Johnny. That’s why people are interested in you, because you’re a freaking car wreck. With that privileged upbringing, and a wealth of talent, you can run and you can throw — at least you could in college. And your off-field behavior has covered an equally broad spectrum. Disorderly conduct, domestic abuse, alcohol addiction, destruction of property… the list goes on and on. You’ve managed to get dropped by your agent, Drew Rosenhaus, and Nike, the latter of which is no small feat.
We all have seen this before, of course, especially in professional sports, where the most gifted performers are often the most insecure. And you know why? Everything has always come too easily for them. They’ve never had to truly work at anything. They always won just by showing up. Then a guy like Manziel gets to Cleveland, a first-round selection of the comical Browns franchise, and he has to earn his place. He has to compete against real resistance. He has to deal with failure.
And the sad truth is that he can’t, because deep down, under the Sean Penn look and the cocky strut and the thumb rubbing against his fingers (there it is again), he is really nothing but a petulant, cowardly, spoiled little child. If that sounds like some two-bit attempt at psychoanalysis, so be it. It’s also the truth.
Let’s back up here for a minute. Do we all understand what Manziel has been on the football field and, more importantly, what he could be? He won the Heisman Trophy as a freshman at Texas A&M. He passed for 3,706 yards and 26 touchdowns, ran for another 1,410 yards and 21 more TDs. He completed 68 percent of his passes. A year later, Manziel completed more passes for more yards with 46 totals touchdowns, after which he declared for the NFL draft.
Now, as we know, the NCAA and the NFL are two entirely different things. All along, before the off-field issues, there was legitimate question as to whether Manziel could truly succeed at the next level. After all, Tim Tebow, who lacked the character issues, had perhaps an even more celebrated college career than Manziel, and he couldn’t make it. But the real sin for Manziel now isn’t that he has failed, but that he failed to even give himself a chance. He’s acted like a liquored-up cement head, something Tebow never, ever did.
Remember Good Will Hunting, the movie that truly put Ben Affleck and Matt Damon on the map? Damon plays a mathematical genius (Will) who grew up in a rougher area around Boston, a conflicted young man from an abusive household who has the chance to get out. Affleck plays his far simpler best friend (Chuckie). Later in the film, Chuckie confronts Will about fulfilling his potential, about getting out the neighborhood, about growing.
Will: Oh come on. Why is it always this, I mean, I [expletive] owe it to myself to do this. Why, if I don’t want to?
Chuckie: All right. No. No, no. [Expletive] you. You don’t owe it to yourself. You owe it to me. ‘Cus tomorrow I’m gonna wake up, and I’ll be 50. And I’ll still be doin’ this [expletive]. And that’s all right, that’s fine. I mean, you’re sitting on a winnin’ lottery ticket. And you’re too much of a [expletive] to cash it in. And that’s [expletive]. ‘Cuz I’d do [expletive] anything to have what you got. So would any of these [expletive] guys. It’d be an insult to us if you’re still here in 20 years. Hanging around here is a [expletive] waste of your time.
All of this brings us back to Manziel, to Johnny Football, to the talented multimillion-dollar quarterback with the nickel head. His story goes well beyond sad. It long ago crossed into selfish. Johnny Manziel doesn’t owe himself. He doesn’t owe the Cleveland Browns. He doesn’t even owe it to the NFL.
You owe it to everyone, Johnny, because that is what all people do.
Tony Massarotti is an avid Boston sports fan and has covered sports in Boston for more than 15 years for both the Boston Herald and Boston Globe. He now serves as a co-host on afternoon drive on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston. He was a two-time Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year as voted by his peers and has written four books, including “Big Papi,” the New York Times-bestselling memoirs of David Ortiz. You can follow Tony @tonymassarotti.