Dec 31, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) reacts to a fourth-quarter interception against the Duke Blue Devils in the 2013 Chick-fil-A Bowl at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Why I Will Root For Johnny Manziel

I lived about a quarter of a mile off Route 329 in upstate New York as a kid. Our dirt driveway made its way into a pack of thick woods where our house was. Every Sunday, I’d walk up that driveway to the house at the other end of it — my grandfather’s — to read the newspaper.

Sundays in the fall and winter were the most memorable. As I entered the house, the smell of Sir Walter Raleigh pipe tobacco smacked me in the face. I loved it. It was coming from my grandfather’s pipe that he was smoking as he sat in front of his T.V. watching football with a jar of peanuts and a can of Milwaukee’s Best. He was wearing his old fishnet-style Cleveland Browns trucker hat. I’m not talking about the new, fashion friendly fishnet trucker hats you get nowadays for $20 or $30. This was the old cardboard brimmed, foam structured kind he likely got for free. That didn’t matter. Gramps rocked it on Sundays like he paid a grand for it.

He loved his Cleveland Browns. He loved watching Bernie Kosar sling the ball around the field to guys like Ozzie Newsome and Webster Slaughter. Long before that he loved Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly. It likely broke a small piece of his heart when local legend Ernie Davis died before he could play for the Browns. I’ll never know for sure, as my grandfather passed away back in March of 1996 — the offseason before his beloved Browns left Cleveland and became the Ravens.

If he wasn’t watching a Browns game, he had his T.V. tuned to whatever game John Madden and Pat Summerall were calling. My grandpa loved John Madden. Football was a fun game to watch, but John Madden made it even more so. The words and phrases we’ve all come to know Madden for made my grandfather laugh louder than he ever normally did. It was all about fun.

Football is all about fun — at least it used to be.

Nowadays, it seems like football forgot how to be fun. All we hear about are player suspensions, players in trouble with the law, PEDs, contracts, holdouts or how long it’s been since a certain person or team won a championship — if ever.

Think about the two most famous players in the game today — Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. When is the last time you can remember watching them play and seeing a close up shot of either of their faces looking like they are having fun? I can’t remember.

The fun is gone. Every year, the NFL puts more restrictions on touchdown celebrations. Think about that for a minute. This is a business where young men in their mid-twenties make millions of dollars playing a game — a game that is supposed to be fun — and yet the powers that be are telling them to tone down the fun when they score a touchdown. I’ve played football. There are few things as enjoyable as scoring a touchdown. The only limit there should be when it comes to celebrating scoring a touchdown is time.

We’ve done our part to kill the fun. I meet more and more people all the time who play the Madden video game with Madden’s voice turned off. “He’s annoying”, they say. I meet someone new every day who hates Chris Berman. “Obnoxious” is a word often associated with Berman.

I love both. I love both because they add more fun to watching football or shows about football. Their enthusiasm is infectious — to me anyway. And it’s fun.

I guess this is why I find myself rooting for Johnny Manziel. He’s everything every football coach (including my own father) taught us all not to be. He talks smack. He taunts. He celebrates like a madman after pulling off an on-field stunt few others could pull off. Regardless of whether or not you like him as a person (and we’ll get to that in a second), you can’t watch him play football without being entertained. You are entertained because he is having fun. The sport is about being entertained. That’s why they started putting bleachers next to football fields.

So you don’t like him? I get it. I’ve been a die-hard Tom Brady fan since the day he took over at quarterback for my Patriots. I’ve watched his collection of haters grow through the years, mostly out of jealousy. He’s better looking than all of us, is married to a super-model, wears the craziest and most metro-sexual threads we’ve ever seen and lives in a castle with a moat in, of all places, California. Of course you hate him.

And of course you hate Johnny Manziel. He won the Heisman as a freshmen, hangs out with Lebron James and Drake, shows up at high-profile events in seats you could only afford if you didn’t pay your mortgage for six months and parties like a rock star. He does all of this and STILL pulls off video game numbers and highlights you couldn’t recreate no matter how hard you mashed the circle button on the controller.

You got angry when it looked like he sold his autograph to a memorabilia broker. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t. Either way, someone was willing to pay him for it because others were willing to pay them for it. Who’s at fault for that?

You scoffed when he filled his schedule with online classes. When is the last time you took an online class? Try taking four of them in the same semester.

And then we got angry when we saw the kid partying and drinking beer at college parties — GASP! –while he was in college!

Gimme a break. If those are the kid’s character issues, sign me up.

Johnny Manziel never punched his girlfriend in an elevator. He was never involved in a back-alley murder. He never ran an illegal dogfighting ring. He was never accused of sexual assault and he’s never been accused of being a racist.

Johnny Manziel is guilty of enjoying life to the fullest while exploiting his own talent to add even more enjoyment to life. All he wants to do is live, laugh, party and win.

Who DOESN’T want that?

And now, Johnny Manziel will take that love of life and football he has to the Factory of Sadness in hopes of adding to the legend of Johnny Football while pulling a storied franchise from the ashes. I can’t wait to see it.

I am, however, sad to know that I’ll never be able to sit next to my grandfather and smell that pipe while I listen to him laugh as he watches John Madden try to chase down Johnny Manziel with his chalkboard on a replay where he juked half the defense en route to the end zone.

Instead, if and when Manziel does just that, I’ll just smile, look to the sky and imagine my grandpa grinning ear to ear with that Browns hat on his head and that pipe hanging out of the corner of his mouth.


Tags: Cleveland Browns Johnny Football Johnny Manziel

  • Gary

    Wonderfully written..Made me stop to think a little…Article is spot on. Let Johnny be Johnny, and maybe we can have a little fun along the way.

  • joe

    Im gonna root for him simply cause I see he likes to compete so much and you dont see that enough today. I read that he didn’t watch much tape on opponents and didn’t do much preparation as to knowing the defenses he faced head to toe, sideline to sideline. And if that’s true, the results were really well and shows he just has great instincts.

    • Larry Heitman

      Joe, it’s not true. This guy worked harder than anyone on the team. He stayed late watching film. One example was in the 2012 Bama game. He knew the weakness of the All-American Dee Millner. Notice in this link that JFF looks his direction before the play and then throws to Kennedy for a TD. He knew if Millner was in one on one coverage, he was going there. You got suckered like millions of others by the media who lies to sell advertising.

      • texassa

        “This guy worked harder than anyone on the team.” Truth. If you watched A&M’s bowl game against Duke and saw Johnny beet red and bursting firing up his teammates to rally the comeback and win, that is all you need to know about Johnny Manziel. Forget the stupid made-for-tv BS hype narratives about his supposed attitude. Look at the kid on the field, and on the sidelines. It speaks for itself.

  • Joe R

    I never comment on fansided articles because most of the time I only make make it half way through and stop because it is soo poorly written or soley based on inaccurate information, however…. THIS IS A GREAT READ! VERY WELL DONE!

    And point taken about the current state of the game. I can see Manziel being beloved by adolescent teens across the country for the “it factor” he undeniably possesses. Kudos to you once again…

  • Janice Williford Evans

    here’s hoping he does fabulously and does Texas A&M proud. . .we’ve been on his bandwagon from the beginning. . .all the best to Johnny!

  • William Plaster

    While I was not enamoured with Johnny while at A&M, he is now a Brown and I will support and hopefully, enjoy seing him win games on most Sundays. I have been a Browns fan since 1953 and hope they can win another championship game before my demise. Great article….and go Johnny, go.

    • Larry Heitman

      Don’t be a sheep and believe everything you read. This sports analysts are looking for “clicks” and sensationalism to get more advertising $. They didn’t tell you how Manziel never turned down an autograph or spent time with hospitalized children or who rescued a cat off of a busy highway. When they told you his teammates didn’t like him, they lied. When they told you he was working in the off season honing his skills, they lied. You and millions of others got suckered. If you have real reporters in Cleveland who tell the truth, you will find out who the real Manziel is. You got tricked so networks and sports outlets could make more $. Don’t be a sheep!

      • William Plaster

        I am fully aware of the possibilities of this renegade quarterback. I want the Browns to win, not Johnny Football as an individual. To reiterate, I stated that I wasn’t enamoured with him as a college player, but under the control of the right person….he will change his ways or go the way of the previous Cleveland QB’s. I was “suckered” only in the minds of people like you. The “real” Manziel will surface by his own doings, and in that case if his demeanor is unacceptable to me, I shall react accordingly. Let me say that he is on a short leash.

        • texassa

          Oh, lord. We have rapists in all of our professional (and collegiate) sports — even Heisman winners! People cry and don’t like Johnny because he is too good. Give me a break.

        • Larry Heitman

          William, evidently you didn’t read my response. You are a SHEEP! Sites like this and other who spew lies to get your attention and clicks love you!!! The title “renegade” is another internet analyst lie to make $ off of SHEEP like you. If he was a renegade would Kevin Sumlin and his QB coaches Kliff Kingsbury and Jake Spavital rave about him as a team player and one who plays within the system. I feel sorry for guys like you. But most people are SHEEP! Wise up man and think for yourself and research this stuff before making a JUDGMENT! I guess you just got judged for your judgment!! Btw, if you follow the same guys who are lying, then whatever Manziel does on the field will be lied about! Man, you just don’t get it. Okay, one last example. Kirk Herbstreit, John Gruden, Skip Bayless, and many, many more guys who actually know JFF up close love the guy! And why do you think so many NFL QB’s love this guy! I am very frustrated with people who are SHEEP and believe anything they read. I hope you understand that I am not critical of you personally. It is the same thing with people who believe political ads and believe that these guys are speaking the truth. Politicians and some analysts share this in common…You can tell when they are lying…Watch their lips. When they move, they’re lying!!

          • William Plaster

            If that s your personal belief Herr Heitman, I will not make an attempt to engage you any further in the discussion.

          • Larry Heitman

            I have insulted you. I regret that and i offer my apology. Mr. Plaster, you say that this is my “personal opinion”. And yet i cited many, many people who are close to Manziel who share my “opinion”. You share the opinion of those who write for profit. I would say my opinion since it is based upon those who are close to Manziel is more accurate.

  • Richard Ciesielski

    I liked the article, I think your gramp probably loved the Cardiac Kids too. Whenever Johnny gets his chance I just hope his team mates can hold the line long enough for him to do his thing. Your right on about the announcing of the games though. I gew up about the same time you did and its been more fun to hear games over the radio than to watch, unless its like you say, the announcers could keep it fun for you.

  • Sam McGowan

    As a Texas resident (who lived in Ohio for a couple of years), I can say this is the best sports essay I’ve read yet about Johnny Manziel. I’m not a football fan, but after I read about him in Texas Monthly I started watching A&M games and for the first time in my life I was actually entertained by a football game. People watched him to see what he would do, and most of the time they saw him do something extraordinary. What gets me is that so many people seem to have this idiotic idea that NFL players are born into the NFL when they all started out playing high school and college ball before they started collecting the big bucks.

  • Donnie Walker

    I’m sure your Grandpa would also smile at all the new Browns fans (like me) that now want his beloved Browns to win it all. Great, great article. Well done, Sir!

  • Larry Heitman

    This is one of the best, from the heart, articles I’ve read in a long time! I’m in agreement totally with the writer. I’d like to add one more thing. The NFL is all about money. It’s not about fun. When you put the $ first, you take the fun out of whatever. ESPN and others are trying to do the same with college football. ESPN turned on JFF in 2013 and tried to push Tajh Boyd. Their criticism of Manziel was outlandish and not deserved. And what does ESPN know? Boyd was drafted 213th! They and others make crazy statements to get clicks. Then they go to their advertisers and ask for more $. When we read these negative articles we feel “Suckered”. I stopped watching NFL games and went to supporting college football. But this year, I’m following the Browns. I just hope their management doesn’t screw it up for the rest of us!

  • John Jakubik

    Excellent, now you feel what we Aggies have felt the last 2 years. Johnny is a rock star and lives a life people are jealous of. That will always breed haters but below the surface of each haters words I hate to tell you, we see your envy.

  • compguy83

    He’s not even going to be the starter. This is Tim Tebow without the Jesus.

    • Larry Heitman

      Judge not. He’s actually a Christian. I won’t judge you.

  • texassa

    I appreciate the love for Johnny, but so much of the “negatives” against him mentioned are just a media-created persona. Johnny Manziel doesn’t taunt or smack talk any more than any players — in fact, I’d say he probably does it less than average. You just see and hear about it because he’s in the spotlight and the best thing ESPN can do for viewership is create soap opera narratives. And if he “parties like a rock star,” then so did I in college and pretty much every one of my friends. Kids in college go to parties. They drink. They go to concerts. They go on vacation, sometimes. If I had reporters snapping pictures of me and talking about me on national television when I was 20, you would have seen me puking down the garbage shoot in my dorm. When you’re tempted to knee-jerk repeat something you saw/read about Johnny in the news along the lines of his attitude/partying/arrogance, pause for a moment and see if you have any actual examples to recall that support the statement.

  • Larry Heitman

    Here’s a couple quick videos of JFF’s last game. It will give you
    insight into the type of competitor and leader you drafted. IMO the
    Browns just won the lottery!

    Amazing A&M Vs. Duke Highlights:

    Post Game Interview with JFF:

  • Robb

    He reminds me of Alex Moran. Which is awesome.