What the Hell Was Paul Manziel Thinking?
By Jim Weber
If you wonder why Johnny Manziel appears completely oblivious with how to handle the press, look no further than his father, Paul, who inadvertently just threw his son under the bus.
Let me start by saying I hope Johnny Manziel has an even better 2013 and smashes beer cans against his head after each touchdown just to shut up all the people who want to hate him.
But we had just gotten through another round of the Johnny Football 24-hour news cycle with the media treating him getting thrown out of a University of Texas frat party like a national nightmare when Paul Manziel (above left) put his son squarely back under the scorching spotlight with access and insight into the Manziel family for an eye-opening ESPN The Magazine story by Wright Thompson that just made things even worse for Johnny.
The irony of it all? Manziel’s father talks throughout the piece about how tough the limelight has been on his son and how much this worries him as a father. I’m guessing that Paul believed this profile would humanize his son and give the Manziel’s side of the situation, which it did. Maybe he was also trying to make a public intervention to grab Johnny’s attention.
But any good intentions were drastically outweighed by the negative excerpts that are circling the news media and headlines of, “Parents Concerned About Johnny Manziel” as if Manziel was an estranged trainwreck child like Lindsay Lohan.
When I got home and turned on “Pardon the Interruption,” this quote from Paul Manziel was scrolling at the bottom of the screen: “It could come unraveled. And when it does, it’s gonna be bad. Real bad… It’s one night away from the phone ringing, and he’s in jail.”
How do you think Johnny Football felt when he turned on the TV to see that quote from his own father speculating about his demise scrolling across the bottom of ESPN?
I’m not trying to demonize ESPN. This is what the media does: It takes the juiciest nugget from a story and plasters it everywhere as a tease. And Paul Manziel saying his son is on the verge of self-destruction is one hell of a tease.
The whole idea to let ESPN profile Johnny Manziel was a bad idea to begin with by Paul. While I don’t believe Johnny came off poorly as a whole in the story, anecdotes about Johnny throwing his golf clubs and telling his aunt to “Shut the hell up” at dinner - among others - just adds to the perception that Manziel is a spoiled brat by his detractors who look for new reasons to despise the 20-year-old kid.
Paul only added more fuel to the media storm fire by telling Thompson the following as well:
• That he believes Johnny drinks to deal with stress. Drinking too much because you party is one thing. Drinking too much to deal with stress sets off alarm bells that your son is a burgeoning alcoholic. If you’re worried about this as a parent, have a family meeting or go to a therapist as a group. Don’t voice this concern for public consumption.
• “I don’t enjoy playing golf with him because I don’t want to see that temper. I honestly do not. I cringe when he wants to play golf. I don’t want to do it, but I know I have to do it. Because he still needs love.” This is even worse than Paul Manziel’s previous quotes because it came across as very self-serving, like saying: “I’m doing the best I can, but my son is still a pain in the ass.” Again, this is not something you should share publicly to the world.
• And then there’s apparently telling Thompson that he and his wife demanded for Johnny to see an alcohol counselor and a therapist, but that Johnny bailed on both. Again, this is self-serving. If your son stops seeing a counselor or therapist that you think is important for him, make him keep going. Don’t let him stop and then tell the media you tried to help, but your son wouldn’t help himself.
Oh, and publicizing a rift between the Manziel family and Texas A&M - including a bizarre accusation that A&M wouldn’t give Johnny his copy of the Heisman so they could use it for fundraising - certainly didn’t help his son any either.
Look, I’m not trying to make out Paul Manziel as the next Marv Marinovich. But it’s very apparent from the article that Johnny Football’s dad is clueless about how to deal with his son and even more dumbfounded with how to handle the media.
In fact, the most fitting part of the article was Paul Manziel saying he and his wife got talked out of “JFFDAD” and “JFFMOM” license plates - for “Johnny F*ckin’ Football” - because of the bad example it might set for their kids - by their 17-year-old daughter.
It’s painfully clear that what Johnny Manziel needs most right now is a mentor to guide him through this media circus. That should be his father. Instead, Paul Manziel just made his son’s nightmare offseason even worse.