ESPN SuperWriter Wright Thompson published a fascinating profile of Johnny Manziel today, after spending an afternoon at a (very) nice golf course with the 20-year-old and interviewing his mother and father. If Manziel goes down in Jack Daniels-stoked flames, the piece will probably be notable for the candor Mr. Paul Manziel used to describe raising his son. I don't think it's going so well.
They’re concerned. Paul thinks Johnny drinks to deal with the stress. After his arrest, Johnny’s parents and Sumlin mandated he visit an alcohol counselor; Johnny saw him six or seven weeks during the season. About the only place they still see the real him is on the football field. Mostly what they see is the emotional byproduct of whatever is chewing him up inside. “I don’t know where the anger comes from,” Paul says. “I don’t think he knows. If it comes from his drinking, or if he’s mad at himself for not being a better person when he fails, when he fails God and his mom and me. If it makes him angry that he’s got demons in him. You can only speculate because you can’t go in there.”
Paul Manziel these rounds of golf as a way to measure the maturity of his son, just as Johnny uses them to measure himself against his dad. They've played thousands of times. Johnny has never won. On the Hollytree practice range, long before he starts flinging clubs, Johnny takes out his driver and talks to himself, whispering "hole 1," seeming to visualize his way around the course. When he uncorks a low curving hook, he grips the club and brings it down on his knee, pulling up short of breaking it in two.
"Literally, I'll snap it over my f---ing leg if I do that on the course," he says.
"You can't do that," Paul says.
"Yes, I can," Johnny says, and he sounds defiant, even petulant, someone still learning to manage the distance between his reality and his potential. He's a boy. As his dad says, "He ate Skittles, drank beer and won the Heisman."
Manziel—who already has a personal assistant and a friend named Turtle; no, really—comes off better when he's not threatening to snap clubs. (He's loaded with oil money, by the way, which softens the blow of paying for new shafts.) Thompson argues that Manziel has a "volatile, evolving relationship" with his new-found fame, that he both loves it and hates it, and that the pressure to constantly perform for the camera is stressing him out immensely. He argues that we all should cut him some slack. He's 20.
Where Thompson does unfairly judge, though, and where we'll call him out as editors of BroBible.com, is here:
He orders Crown and Sprite, which ranks second to Jack and Coke in the pantheon of overgrown-boy drinks.
Oh, c'mon. He's a college kid. What 20-year-old drinks bourbon neat? Should he ask for the Old Fashioned the next time he's trawling Northgate? To dismiss a Crown and Sprite order is such a bizarre judgement, especially since Thompson is essentially choosing to be a liquor snob over, you know, ever pointing out that he's watching an underage kid drink illegally.
I dunno. Let Johnny order his Crown and Sprite in peace. When he hits 30, then silently pass him the 15-year-old whiskey.