by Mike Moffett
Weirs Times Columnist
FROM JOHNNY FOOTBALL TO
NEWS ITEM: The Associated Press reported that Cleveland Brown quarterback and former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel was benched by coach Mike Pettine for his off-field behavior. Manziel’s benching came in the wake of his latest mini-scandal, where a video showed him wielding a bottle of champagne while rapping profane lyrics at an Austin, Texas nightclub.Most readers of this column were athletes once, and young—youngsters who dreamed of playing in the big leagues someday. But that dream faded and at some point died for all of us. (Except for Concord’s Matt Bonner, now in his 12th NBA season!)
But our love of sports endured and we became fans, coaches, golfers, and columnists as we watched the ultimate reality shows—sports telecasts.
The allure of big time sports included money, fame, validation, and the satisfaction that goes with developing one’s skills to the highest levels. We live vicariously through the experiences and exploits of those who DO make it to “the show.”
So we are perplexed when gifted and blessed athletes like Manziel squander their magical opportunities—their chances to “Live the Dream.” Why do so many stars succumb to drugs, alcohol, gambling, and sexual sidetracks?
Part of it has to do with the enormous confidence and self-assurance that these stars must have, qualities that helped them reach the highest plateau of sports competition in the first place. Combine that with fabulous wealth and the stage is set for fewer touchdowns and more meltdowns
That so many multimillionaire athletes end up bankrupt shows a counterintuitive lack of discipline. It’s sad. The Johnny Manziels of the sports world all learn harsh lessons when the adulation turns to demonization. A chastened Manziel is probably through with the Browns, but will perhaps be humbler, wiser and better for his experiences, as he and his agent try to find a place for a fresh start. But will any team take a chance on this free-spirited outlaw?
Yes, I know you’re think what I’m thinking.
Hello, OAKLAND RAIDERS!
Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian in history, winner of 18 Gold Medals. The world was his oyster, so-to-speak, as countless endorsement offers flew at the Baltimore native. But drug and alcohol use brought him down low. A Sports Illustrated story described him as “being curled in a fetal position in his home, crestfallen and fearful, embarrassed at his behavior and uncertain of his future.”
This all followed an arrest for several driving infractions, including DUI.
“I was really in a dark place,” said Phelps. “Not wanting to be alive.”
The SI cover story on Phelps chronicled his life journey and ended with Phelps battling hard to reclaim his life. There CAN be rehabilitation, recovery, and redemption. When a high profile athlete crashes but recovers, then a helpful narrative emerges—an example to emulate. Phelps’ swimming skills may not be transferable, but his recovery skills could inspire, teach, and give hope not just to the Johnny Footballs of the world, but to less prominent people similarly trying to recover from bad decisions.
Of course, it’s even better to draw lessons from high profile, successful athletes who never get into trouble in the first place.
(Like Concord’s Matt Bonner, now in his 12th NBA season!)
Who was the first U.S. President to throw out a ceremonial first pitch to open a baseball season? (Answer follows)
Born Today …
That is to say, sports standouts born on Dec. 3 include NASCAR great Bobby Allison (1937) and Austrian downhill skiing legend Franz Klammer (1953).
“”Emotion is highly overrated in football. My wife Corky is emotional as hell, but can’t play football worth a damn.” – John McKay, USC and NFL football coach
William Howard Taft, in 1910.
Michael Moffett is a Professor of Sports Management for Plymouth State University and for NHTI-Concord. He recently co-authored the critically-acclaimed and award-winning “FAHIM SPEAKS: A Warrior-Actor’s Odyssey from Afghanistan to Hollywood and Back” (with the Marines)—which is available through Amazon.com. His e-mail address is email@example.com.