LOS ANGELES — If “Varsity Blues” taught me anything about Texas it’s a) waffles dipped in peanut butter and washed down with maple syrup sounds amazing but looks disgusting, b) when your parents go to the Gun Club is a good time to have a sundae, and c) if you are extremely talented at throwing, running or hitting someone with a football you’re treated like a god. And rightfully so. I mean, who needs high school Sex Ed class when you can have show-and-tell with the teacher at the local strip joint?
Here’s what I know through observation about Johnny Manziel: he is famous for playing football in the state of Texas. That’s what happens when you become the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, compile 516 total yards and 4 touchdowns in winning your bowl game by 28 points, and behave like a rock star in the subsequent six months since. Texas A&M’s quarterback has also become famous for being famous; for showing up courtside at NBA Playoff games, carving up Pebble Beach and being photographed with models at bars. A sports version of Paris Hilton, only with talent and minus a sex tape, so far.
It’s a pretty good life, if you can get it. Manziel even came under fire earlier in July for leaving the Manning Passing Camp in Louisiana early due to “dehydration” and “exhaustion.” Reports, though, had Manziel out partying the night before with Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, among others. Johnny Football also appeared in the same day at SEC’s media day in Birmingham, Ala. and the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles. Again, good life if you can handle it.
And that’s where the wheels have come off in the last few months. The “handling it” part. I tend to lean towards the “20-year olds like to act like 20-year olds” camp, and let him figure out his life along the way. Ya know, much like we all did. Jon Voight’s line from VB makes a lot of sense to me: when he’s eating in the diner and asks the cops if his boys are too much to handle; the cops quit complaining and say “no” and go on their way. We need to stop complaining, stop hounding and stop fishing in Manziel’s pond, and all this will go away and he can be just another wildly exciting and talented football player with oodles of potential.
I tweeted this a while ago and stand by it: I’m rooting hard for a fantastic Eff You season from Manziel this fall and then three months of “should he be the first QB taken in the Draft” debate. But mostly, I’m rooting for peace of mind for the kid. He didn’t ask for all this nonsense, but he’s not behaving like he doesn’t like it. In a way, all the great ones do. He needs to figure out what kind of hero he wants to be.
ESPN’s Wright Thompson wrote a pretty brilliant piece on Manziel and his family that posted Tuesday detailing his insane life and what it’s become. I strongly recommend it while at the same time feeling like I’m contributing to his exploitation by reading/writing about it. Alas, an argument for another time. Without giving too much away, I figured I’d run down some of the more surprising reveals in the piece, with some commentary, of course:
- The Manziels have money from oil: not surprising, I guess, but I’m glad this mystery has been solved once and for all. Maybe it was well known, but I always wondered how JF was “rich” in the first place. And how awesome was it that people used to think the family was a) mobbed up (I’m willing to bet back in the day the mob couldn’t pick out Texas on map) and b) the dad described it as “not Garth Brooks money” but still “a lot”? Good to know Garth is still the go-to country reference for some folks.
- Johnny is a golf club thrower/breaker: probably the least shocking reveal in the piece. Oh, you’re telling me this crazy person competitive athlete with a temper problem throws golf clubs and wants to break them after every bad shot?! Welcome to all of our hack golfing lives, buddy.
- JF has a personal assistant: not only is he a college student with a personal assistant but it’s a high school buddy nicknamed “Uncle Nate.” I’ve known a few people with assistants/managers and every time they started a sentence with “Well, my manager said…” I’ve wanted to punch them in the face. So I can see how this would make people believe Manziel isn’t exactly shying away from any unwanted spotlight.
- JF’s parents wanted to get “jffmom” and “jffdad” on their license plates: how awesome is that, that your parents are so proud of you they’re willing to suggest the F-word on their vehicles at all times in your name? I can see BrockmanMary’s yellow whip now: cfbmom. His sister should be ashamed for talking them out of this. They should at least change their Twitter handles to that, right? Or get hats. Something!
- Tiger Woods is an asshole: let’s be honest, that had to have been the least-shocking reveal in the whole piece.
- There’s a Pantheon of Overgrown-Boy Drinks: who knew? I anxiously await the rest of this list to slowly be leaked by Texas A&M this season.
- JF is friends with, and hung out with, Drake: Drake seems like the least-cool rapper I’ve ever seen. Drake should fly across the country to hang out with Manziel to pick up some cool pointers or something, not the other way around.
- The waiter casually asks JF if he wants another beer: this reminded me of the scene in VB when after his first win Moxon puts the bottle of Coke on the counter and the clerk quickly replaces with a six-pack of beer and says, “nice game ,son.” Just completely normal way of doing things, nothing to see here. #TexasForever
- JF is a tickler: so long as he’s not a Tickle Monster, we’re all set.