Catch Him If You Can

Draft choices

I graduated from Texas A&M and have always been an avid though reasonable fan of our sports teams – not part of the 98% but not a “2 percenter” either (you’d get that if you know enough about the school).

We’ve had our ups and downs, we’ve had our scandals, we’ve had our share of unjustified firings in Shelby Metcalf and R.C. Slocum and greedy resignations in Billie Gillispie.

The past couple of years have definitely been exciting with the arrival and departure of Johnny Manziel.  Though I only know him through watching his games and reading articles, I’ve been somewhat surprised at the level of hate.  Yes, he got into a bar fight when he was a freshman trying to protect his friend.  I think it’s safe to assume that most of us do things in our college years that we’re not exactly proud of.  And yes, he’s cocky – if I’d won the Heisman (as I should have) when I was twenty years old, I’d walk with a swagger too.

People don’t know what to make of Manziel because he does not fit any stereotype.

I think in some ways different people are intimidated by him for different reasons.  Manziel comes from a family with means so he’s probably not impressed by the wealth of the men who control sports.  He’s not a big athlete so, on the one hand, some sports writers – many of whom were former football players in college, bigger than Manziel and did not make it in the pros (you can insert a former UT quarterback with a famous pro football quarterback father here) – seem envious that a shorter, skinnier guy who looks a little goofy in a baseball cap is an incredible football player.  On the other hand, some other sport writers who were average athletes, about the same size as Manziel and could not make it in college sports are probably wondering how the hell he made it.

Also, Manziel’s friendships with black people seem genuine.  Both his head coach at A&M, Kevin Sumlin, and his personal quarterback coach, George Whitfield are black – he clearly respects these men.  There are pictures of him with black women, he hangs around with famous black rappers, and while LeBron James took him under his wings and signed Manziel to his sports promotional company, it just doesn’t seem to be “all about the Benjamins”.  This thought had crossed my mind and I wanted to dismiss it until Deion Sanders brought up a similar point.  In my mind Johnny Football is not unlike Deion “Neon” Sanders – a lot of talk, a lot of show, but the plays on the field speak for themselves and leave the spectators speechless.  Not every wealthy white sports franchise owner is clearly a racist and doesn’t know it, but there is an undertow of this kind of prejudice and not just in sports but in many places in America – being uncomfortable with the comfortable closeness of non-blacks and blacks.

Manziel wanted to go UT but Mack Brown wasn’t going to give him a chance at being quarterback.  He “settled” for A&M and had a stellar college career – his numbers were better in 2013 than in 2012 when he was the game’s best player.  Manziel wanted to play for the Houston Texans but was passed over by them and twenty other teams. He’s in Cleveland now and I wouldn’t bet against him.

While I will always remain a Houston Oilers fan (the Texans’ chances of winning a Super Bowl anytime soon are not much better than the Oilers even though the Oilers do not exist anymore), this year I’ll be rooting for the Browns.

Best of luck to Jonathan Paul Manziel.

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