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Time To Let Johnny Just Play Football


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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. Tiger Woods is an asshole: let’s be honest, that had to have been the least-shocking reveal in the whole piece.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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
  9. JF is a tickler: so long as he’s not a Tickle Monster, we’re all set.

So Long to Summitt, Clark

LOS ANGELES — A few hours after Twitter told me legendary Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt was retiring after 38 seasons, Twitter told me that we lost a broadcasting legend in Dick Clark, who passed away at age 82 after suffering a heart attack. (Long are the days of Walter Cronkite delivering us the big news in black and white.)

Two icons of their industry, Summitt and Clark changed the way we thought about their avenue of expertise. Summitt is arguably the greatest collegiate coach (mens or womens) of all time and if she isn’t, is only second to UCLA icon John Wooden. Clark brought modern music to middle America with “American Band Stand” and later made Dec. 31 a marquee event with “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.”

Let me start there. Growing up, I never understood the hoopla that was the turning of the new year. To me, New Year’s Day was for football, as back then all the major bowl games were played on Jan. 1, and the Tournament of Roses parade that no one watched. But as I grew and stayed up later and later, tuning in to see Dick Clark do his thing in Times Square became a ritual. The Ball Drop became an iconic kickoff to each year and was not to be missed.

It wasn't a New Year's celebration without Dick Clark counting down the ball dropping in Times Square.

Shortly after college, my friends and I would try and meet in New York City to celebrate the New Year at a local upper east side establishment. We managed to five in a row and while it wasn’t Times Square to say the least (and thank goodness for that) the bar always had Dick Clark on the TV and counted down the final 20 seconds before the real celebration began.

Clark also hosted “$10,000 Pyramid” and all its variations throughout the years, which was one of the greatest game shows of all time (essentially, it’s Taboo, for those clueless folk) and what got me into game shows to begin with. When I was ages 6-9, my family lived in Virginia, which was a stone’s throw from both my mom and dad’s parents’ houses in Pennslyvania, and such, we’d visit often. My mom’s mom always had daytime television on her 13-inch kitchen TV set, and knowing this was where I could get constant goodies, I’d hang out there and watch all these shows with her; Pyramid, Family Feud, Price is Right and later on, Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. It was a fun bonding experience for both of us and probably why I enjoy trivia and useless information to this day.

Dick Clark was as dapper as ever in his 1951 Syracuse University yearbook photo.

Clark was also a Syracuse University alumnus, Class of 1951, and set the stage for the run of famous broadcasters to grace central New York with their presence, so he’s got a special place in my heart for that. Though it’s always been funny to me how much we value those who attended the same college and university before us. Like it matters, or their previous success matters as to how you’ll turn out as a student. It’s all a mere coincidence. Though, who among us didn’t, at least in some small way, base which college they attended on famous alumni. [sheepishly raises hand]

It was rough seeing Clark on television in recent years after his stroke in 2006 left him debilitated. There’s just something about seeing those we care about not at 100%. It pains us. We want to remember them on top of their game. Sharp. Witty. Strong-willed and minded. It’s why it’s hard to see Muhammad Ali at public functions these days, or even when I ran into James Earl Jones at the Oscars this past February. Even my own grandmother, I’m guessing, will be hard to handle at my cousin’s wedding next month.

It’s why the news of Summitt, the winningest NCAA basketball coach of all time, being diagnosed with the early stages of dementia last fall was tough to swallow as well. Her iron will, stare, determination and drive are well documented and to think she could be anything slightly less than that was unfathomable. How could something like dementia strike her. Hopefully, now that she’s left her duties at Tennessee, she can become the face of helping to find a cure for this sickening disease. There’s no doubt she’ll attack this challenge with the strength she gave the Volunteers over her 38 years and eight championships.

Summitt's 8 National Championships are tops in all of college basketball, both men's and women's.

In the span of a couple hours on Wednesday, two great Americans left us. One for good, the other just in the professionally. But what they meant to their fans and those they touched will live on forever. It’s said, “everything happens in threes,” so I’m anxious to see who’s the next to retire or leave us prematurely. Longtime CBS News man Mike Wallace passed last week so maybe he was the first and Summitt and Clark completed the trio.

Either way, I’m sure Twitter will let me know.