Sometimes the Johnny Manziels of the world aren’t bad, just sick. Maybe the guy is bad news. Maybe he’s sick and bad. I’m pretty sure there’s a long list of women who would attest to him being a royal jerk and quite possibly abusive. But the jury that’s deciding if he has a problem with alcohol...well, they've returned with a unanimous verdict: Johnny has a big problem with the sauce and when he drinks, he is most definitely bad.
He may be many other things, too, but none of those other things: Johnny Football, millionaire, son, teammate, loudmouth, brother…will matter very much if he fails to give his alcohol problem his fullest attention. There is also no parent, agent, coach or friend who can swoop in and save Johnny from Johnny. Some will try and they will fail.
I do not feel sorry for Johnny. I don’t know him and what I know of him isn’t all that endearing. What I have is empathy for anybody who suffers from the disease of addiction and all of the moms, dads, siblings, significant others, children, coworkers, neighbors and friends who find themselves in its destructive path. I have empathy for those who suffer from the disease and for those who suffer from those who suffer from the disease; a disease which happens to be 100% treatable.
Make no mistake, Johnny is suffering.
He is flushing one opportunity after another down the toilet. Would Johnny be doing that if he had a choice in the matter? I don’t think so.
If Johnny still called the shots regarding his consumption of booze and the proliferation of the bad behavior that ALWAYS ensues when he picks up a bottle, I think he would choose not to pick up the drink in the first place.
Johnny is what happens when the booze starts calling the shots.
Johnny, young and moneyed, still has a family, stuff, talent and seems to get the kind of pass when he hits a woman that few men do. He may never end up drinking out of a paper bag or living under a bridge...most folks who have a problem with alcohol don't. He does have a ton left to lose and only he can decide how much of it he is willing to hand over.
One thing that I know for sure about Johnny is that he is anything but unique. Hell, he's not even a little bit unique to the NFL. And like most drunks who are actively drinking, Johnny cannot be good. He cannot be good for the city of Cleveland, or any other city that hosts and boasts an NFL football team.
What I also know for sure about a guy I’ve never met: Things can get way worse for him. Long after the cameras stop following his every drunk and the whispers and finger pointing about the guy in the corner who they once called Johnny Football die down, things can get 30 for 30 bad.
Football is just a game men play on Sundays that Johnny may or may not ever suit up for again. The only real question for anyone who does care about Johnny is:
Can Johnny Be Good in time to save his own life?
Because at the end of the day, Johnny needs to want this for himself. He needs to feel uncomfortable enough in his own ball cap and his own skin to want to get better. It' not about a photo op at a camp cupcake rehab facility, or saying the right things to the front office of some team who needs a QB to ride its bench. It's about life and death and I'm not sure if Johnny understands that just yet.