This morning I’ve received a number of emails from Texas A&M fans. Most have been polite. One not so much. (Up yours, fella!) But they all included a link to what’s being called “The Johnny We Know” Project. (A suggestion was likely made on a messageboard to bombard the evil media with project’s web address.)
“The Johnny We Know” Project is a site with a very specific mission:
“These pages are created to present a face to Texas A&M’s Heisman winning quarterback that some other outlets may not deem profitable. Johnny Manziel is certainly young, has his ‘moments of weakness’ and acts impulsively, perhaps selfishly, at times. However, he’s also an amazing young man, always has time to pose for a picture with a young fan or to visit a pediatric cancer unit. Those visors he wears on the sideline invariably end up in the hands of an eager kid after each home game.
This is how we, his supporters through thick and thin, know Johnny Manziel.”
No one ever said Manziel is incapable of signing an autograph for a kid (for free), or of handing over his visor to a fan, or of — as most college athletes do — visiting the patients in a local hospital. Most college athletes do those types of things. As a Heisman-winner, Manziel has likely done more. Good for him. That’s not meant in a snarky way, either. Literally. Good. For. Him.
But while the positive side of Johnny Football is being celebrated at TJWK Project website — a site loaded with photos of a smiling, child-befriending Manziel — there’s an obvious admission that the Texas A&M fans behind the project choose to ignore the other side of their quarterback’s personality. That photo of him with a sparkler in his mouth and a bottle of champagne in his hand is nowhere to be found. While a story of him rescuing a kitten – yes, really — is featured prominently, there’s no mention of him breezing (and bumping) past his head coach after drawing a taunting penalty on Saturday.
And there’s sure no allusion to the QB’s infamous “I can’t wait to leave college station” tweet.
Look, I get it. Aggie fans want everyone to know that there’s more to Manziel than the showboating, coach-ignoring, golf club-tossing guy presented so often in the media. “If they only show that side, we’ll only show this side.” Got it.
But there’s a problem with that. Manziel’s many good deeds don’t get coverage for two reasons: One, no one cares (sad, but true) and two, college athletes are expected to be nice to children, visit cancer wards and sign autographs (for free). All that other stuff that Manziel does? The cocky behavior, the jet-setting, the kerfuffle at the Manning Passing Academy… that’s stuff that’s not expected of a college player, much less a Heisman Trophy-winner. And fair or not, the unexpected is what’s going to get the majority of national coverage.
The fact that some Aggie backers choose to pretend that “Good Johnny” is to be celebrated while “Bad Johnny” is to be ignored brings to mind a 1978 country hit by John Conlee:
“But these rose-colored glasses
that I’m looking through
show only the beauty,
’cause they hide all the truth.”
Manziel isn’t the devil incarnate. He’s not the worst player to ever step on a football field. But it’s pretty obvious he is spoiled. Spoiled rotten. He lacks an understanding of accountability. He’s never been taught that there are consequences for every action (which is a lesson many of us have also had to learn the hard way).
To pat him on the back and say, “We don’t care that your teammates don’t view you as a team leader, you just keep on keepin’ on” is pretty much the exact attitude that’s resulted in the star’s spoilage. Great players can do whatever they like and continue to play and be cheered. If Manziel were a poor quarterback with a sorry won/loss record, you can be certain there would be no “The Johnny We Know” Project working to polish his image.
It’s amazing, really, that there are still some A&M fans who will back Manziel regardless of his actions. Even those actions that hurt his team. Face it, the guy brought a suspension, a penalty and a benching on himself all in a single game. Can his teammates and coaches truly count on him over the next three months? The answer would appear to be no — again, he was not voted into the team’s leadership council — yet some fans go right on whistling past the graveyard when it comes to their beloved superstar.
No wonder Manziel acts like a spoiled kid.