Why you shouldn't hate Johnny Football
He’s back! Johnny Manziel, star Texas A&M quarterback, is back to playing football, and the negative spotlight is burning brighter than ever. Manziel had already been under fire for allegedly receiving money for signing autographs before the Aggies’ game against Rice this past week, during which he taunted an opposing defender and made repeated, sarcastic hand gestures alluding to the autograph scandal. Whether it was Lou Holtz and Mark May bashing him on ESPN, or the haters that filled my Twitter timeline, those three in-game actions poured more gasoline on an already raging fire. Well, before anyone else decides to judge Manziel, I advise you to consider how hard his life is.
How hard his life is? Yeah, I said it.
I’ll be the first to admit that saying a star SEC quarterback lives a hard life sounds rather comical. Especially when it’s about the kid who sits courtside at NBA Finals games, throws around wads of cash at a casino, takes flights to hang out with rapper Drake and kicks it backstage with Rick Ross. But few of you really understand what he’s gone through these past few months.
The seed for all this negativity was planted before he played a single down for the Aggies. The summer before his Heisman-winning campaign, Manziel was arrested for his involvement in a bar fight and possession of a fake ID. Many pundits pounced on him when the details of his arrest trickled out months after the fact, few of them pausing to realize that at the time of the incident he was a normal student, not yet a star QB. It was before “Johnny Football” was born — he was just Johnny Manziel.
And then, bam! He was the face of Texas A&M because of his stellar performance on the field. Johnny Heisman. The hero of College Station was, just months before, a college kid like any you might see on the Corner on a Thursday night. And with being the hero came the haters; especially on Twitter, where Johnny fostered his negative reputation. He cursed, talked about alcohol and other stupid things most 20-year-olds value.
The offseason brought all the gallivanting around with celebrities and high-profile appearances, but also more strife. When he woke up to see his Mercedes keyed all down the side, he lashed out — again, on Twitter — telling his followers he couldn’t wait to leave College Station. The Texas A&M student paper responded in an op-ed urging him to leave the school titled “Johnny Be Gone.” His own classmates, whose football team he had led to its most exciting season in decades, advocated his departure.
All the while, as Wright Thompson’s feature on him for ESPN the Magazine chronicled, Manziel struggled to cope with his new life. He started talking to a therapist. He escaped Texas A&M on the weekends to drive to his hometown where he could find peace and play rounds of golf with his dad — rounds of golf that would make an already frustrating game maddening, leading him to throw his clubs. His fame and anger even started taking over his life at home, robbing him of any sanctuary. His family fretted over the man he was becoming.
Johnny’s family now has to pay for personal body guards, out of their own pocket, to protect their son from either what he might do, or what people will do to him.
Now you would think the Texas A&M athletics department would love the kid for bringing in so much revenue for the school. Instead, the department has bickered with Johnny’s father, even initially denying Johnny a copy of his Heisman and dismissing it after the fact as a “miscommunication”.
And that all happened before the autograph controversy early last month.
Full disclosure: as a collegiate athlete myself, I do not hold any particularly warm feelings toward the NCAA. I am also not very fond of NCAA President Mark Emmert. Emmert, a multi-millionaire, runs an organization that is run off of unpaid athletes. Athletes train, bring in revenue, excel in the classrooms and don’t get any compensation while Emmert earns an annual salary of millions. $1.7 million dollars in his first year on the job to be exact.
It’s not just Emmert’s salary that makes me dislike the NCAA. It’s travesties such as their selling players’ jerseys and profiting off them while giving the player no money. Or, though they later relented after a vicious public backlash, denying eligibility to an Armed Forces veteran because he played a couple of measly intramural games overseas. Ridiculous.
And it’s situations such as Manziel’s, where they were trying to discipline him because he allegedly got paid for his own signature.
So when I saw Johnny Manziel picking fun at the NCAA last Saturday with his celebrations of hand gestures of getting money and signing autographs, I absolutely loved it. Every one of my teammates here at the University loved it. And everyone should. I speak for every athlete in saying we are rooting for Manziel in his case against the NCAA.
I once thought my life as a student-athlete was made hard by trying to balance athletics and academics. And then I found out about Johnny’s life and what he’s been through. I feel embarrassed for ever thinking my student-athlete life was hard. I can’t even begin to fathom what living his life is like.
Are we really going to judge him for having a fake ID in college? Hypocritical, don’t you think? Are we going to judge him because his family comes from money, and he hangs out with celebrities when he pleases? I think all of us would take advantage of the same opportunities, if we could.
The Texas A&M football coach receives millions of dollars for Johnny’s performance. The athletic department brings in millions in revenue thanks to Johnny’s presence at a booster dinner where people can meet and greet with THE Johnny Football for the right price. What does Johnny get? A therapist for his anger, a scratched up Mercedes, a student newspaper that hates him, a family worried to death about him, a tussle with the NCAA, students heckling him, cops harassing him and Mark May’s disapproval. You don’t have to love the kid, but you certainly shouldn’t hate him. And as for you, Johnny, keep doing you.
Cody Snyder is a third-year member of the track and field team.