Both Richie and Johnny were obvious wrecks during their college years, but at Incognito’s University of Nebraska and Manziel’s A&M, keeping them on the field was far more important than noticing that their mental health was shot. Not only was everything bad they did fine, just fine; John Sharp, one of many washed-out politicians who run universities in Texas and Oklahoma, babbled incessantly to the press about Manziel’s adorable perfectness. He was “innocent” of all the wrongdoing of which he was accused. “My mother wishes I was as nice a kid as Johnny when I was a sophomore in college,” Sharp told a newspaper.
Manziel’s the kind of alcoholic no one could miss, but Sharp missed it, or didn’t care.
Yet what’s most important in this is Sharp’s leadership skills. As head of the university, he established for the entire community the proper attitude, the proper emotion, the proper language, to bring to their quarterback. Sharp modeled a paternal gruff humor, an indulgent folksy tolerance that turned into outraged attacks on the press for reporting the things Manziel did.
So now Manziel has really imploded — not that this means he won’t be picked up by another football team, of course, but he has certainly imploded…
And after all much of the fun of watching NFL games is watching players get fucked up six ways to Sunday on and off the field: concussions, domestic violence, on-field fights, bar fights… Something in us loves fucked up athletes and loves to witness and contemplate the things they do that finally get them locked up. Right now there’s the insanely hyped OJ Simpson tv series.
It is a story that could tell us, on a smaller scale, why O.J. Simpson was the way he was, and what happens when a young man is venerated for his strength and power, and never has to learn how to do anything else.
It fails to tell us any of that.
But we can learn something by looking at the presidents and chancellors of our universities, people like Penn State’s Graham Spanier and Texas A&M’s John Sharp. They lead their university communities in venerating players – and of course sometimes coaches – whose darkness turns out to have been there for anyone to see.