Johnny Manziel, now commonly known by the registered trademark “Johnny Football,” debuted as a redshirt freshman for the Texas A&M Aggies football team last year. He looked to be just another talented dual-threat quarterback, but he became so much more than that. Manziel became the face of Texas football for many, during a season in which he became the first freshman to surpass 3,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a season, a feat which only five other players have accomplished in NCAA history. He also led the Texas A&M Aggies to a shocking upset of number one Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in a 29-24 win. In two other games he had over 557 and 576 total yards of offense, breaking the single game record, and becoming the first player in NCAA history to accomplish that mark. After becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy Award, an award given to the most outstanding college football player, on December 8, Johnny Manziel topped off a historic year with a win over Oklahoma in the 2013 Cotton Bowl Classic.
After having such a fantastic freshmen year, many football analysts began to wonder if Johnny Football would experience the so called “sophomore slump,” as teams began to figure him out. But as the offseason ensued, it seemed that it wouldn’t be opposing coaches who would contribute to a potential sophomore slump, but Manziel himself. It would seem that Johnny Football would want to keep a low profile after having so much exposure from winning such a prestigious award. But alas, this does not seem to be the case. Over the offseason, Johnny Football was seen at numerous sporting and entertainment venues, and many people began to wonder how a broke college student would be able to afford all of this grandeur. Then came his randomly defensive tweets on Twitter, in which he would become irate over something and nobody understood why. This, along with numerous other events at volunteer camps and school parties, began to make the once positive supporters of Manziel become skeptical of this much ballyhooed 20-year-old.
What ultimately made the skeptics become believers in Manziel’s immaturity were reports that Manziel reportedly signed thousands of pieces of memorabilia for money, which, under the current NCAA rules, results in penalties. This landed Manziel with a six hour interview with NCAA investigators and a half game suspension, which many people believed to be too light of a penalty. All opinions aside on whether this is right or wrong, Johnny Manziel (if he did do this—which many believe he did) should know better than to think he is immune to NCAA penalties. Johnny Manziel must honestly believe that star status is a shield from what normal NCAA athletes have to deal with.
As a typical college student who hasn’t achieved star status, I am not angered by Johnny Manziel’s actions, but saddened. I am saddened by the fact that seemingly nobody in the Texas A&M program has come to Manziel to help him behave more appropriately, and instead has let him make a fool of himself like many 20-year-olds would have done if in the same position. I am also saddened that, as a 20 year-old, he has not been seen as a young college student by the media, but as someone who should be exploited and whose faults should be displayed to the whole world. I believe that people in the media should be understanding, and give players at least a few months of privacy to let them become accustomed to the lifestyle and expectations of the newly famous. How is someone, much less a 20-year-old who has never held a serious job, expected to know how to conduct themselves when everyone is giving them anything they want, nobody seems to be helping them with their newfound fame and the media is supporting their failure by reporting their every mistake?
This is what happens in the world of sports media and it is something that negatively affects sports as a whole. Why is it that positive things are not reported about a player, and instead it is the negative? We need to remember that these athletes are people as well, and not just some character in a soap opera. I would like to hear about the positive things that people are doing in life, rather than the negative. I know that would not be the proper thing to do either, because then a facade of these people as perfect humans would be created. But it is ultimately my desire that both the negative and positive of on-the-field, and off-the-field be reported, because it is exasperating to have to see how Alex Rodriguez’s steroid scandal is being reported more often than any exciting playoff chase that is happening in baseball or any random acts of kindness committed by players. I am a man of positivity, and, to me, it this negative stream of news that the media is feeding people, is what ultimately ruins the world of professional sports for me.
With all of his prowess on the football field, to some people, Johnny Manziel is a hero. But that is exactly what he is not. He is only a 20-year-old football player, who by his actions shows that he is exactly that. He is an exceptional 21 year-old football player who has immaturity issues, but nothing more.