When I was a youngster, kids in my neighborhood used to knock on my door and ask my mother if I could come out and play. Most of the time she was willing to get my rambunctious body as far away from her breakables as possible and gladly granted the request. I gladly sprinted out of the house and spent the entire day playing football, basketball, tackle the man with the ball, or whatever the game was to be played.
Even though I was kinda small, when it came time to pick teams it didn’t take long for me to be chosen. Most of the time I did the pickin. But even when my gang played with my brother’s buddies, which were two or three years older, I was drafted pretty quickly. Fortunately for me, I had developed a reputation for being a “tough little nut” and I usually could hold my own with whomever the competition was against.
I loved it when the game was “tackle the man with ball”. I certainly enjoyed my turn with the ball in my hands, but tight boundary lines from the front yard prevented me getting loose too often. I just needed a little more space, then I’d be hard to catch. I’d later find out a 100 X 53 yard football field was more to my liking. Having the ball in my hands was a really good thing. But on those hot, dry, windy, west Texas summer days, it was the tackling part that got my blood flowing. I played the game as if we had full pads on and loved every minute, always disappointed when the game was called and everyone went home. On my trip home, kicking rocks in the in the street as I went along, I’d usually realize I had been given a bloody nose or lip, always a few scrapes and abrasions on my elbows and knees, and every now and then a finger would be sticking out the wrong way. No problem, my brother had taught me how to press on the knuckle and it would pop back in place. I wore the blood on my t-shirts as a badge of honor.
As I got older and began to play for my school, I learned that no matter what the level of competition, I could play. It didn’t matter what the sport, if it had a ball in it, I could play it. My style of play was always hard and 100%. It also meant that because I loved playing so much, I could let my hidden personality out and my style of play became a little flashy, somewhat showy. Not that that was my intention, but because I had so much fun playing and competing, it just came out that way. I guess I didn’t realize how spectators were seeing me. I always seemed to be the one player the fans from the other team always picked out and expressed their opinion about me. Usually not in a very “Christian” manner. I guess I was the Charles Barkley of my time.
This was especially true on the basketball court, where fans were a lot closer to the action and could be seen and heard from easily. ”Stop that little HOTDOG!” ”Knock that COCKY kid’s head off!” ”Kill that little jerk!” ”Somebody just stop him!” One time, I was the focus of a riot that broke out after one of my games…and which we incidentally won. The entire stands emptied out on to the court and it was my family and me against the home team and their crowd. Not sure if we won the riot though.
Johnny Manziel! “Johnny Football”, is a guy I can relate to. Every time Johnny kicked off, tipped off, teed off, or led off, someone from the other side didn’t like or appreciate his style of play. They thought the kid was cocky, arrogant, flashy, and a spoiled brat. He is the hated one, the resented one, the one to blame, the one to pick on, the one to root against. My own small way, I can empathize with him. Johnny, like me, is someone that just loves to play. When you love it that much, you just have fun and let it go. You don’t think about what it looks like, or how your opponent reacts to you, or how fans are screaming at you. You just play!
Manziel is a first round draft pick. The haters will tell you all their reasons he will fail. He’s too small, he’ll get injured, he’s too spoiled, he has too much fun etc… These are the people that will never see him as successful. They will never afford him a chance to be good. They have already made up their minds. Most of them “hate cuz they can’t relate”. I just made that up…. but it seems to fit in this case.
They themselves have likely never loved anything or have been as passionate about anything in their life. So relating to a guy who lets it all go when he plays is a foreign concept to them. And if your team is on the other sideline, you really hate him.
I remember those euphoric feelings of being in the middle of the game, and the excitement and energy running through my veins. It’s better than any drug on the market. I think Johnny Football plays with that same rush of excitement. And when he plays…..it just comes out.
What we all need to do is simply walk up to Johnny’s front door, knock, and ask…. Can Johnny come out and play? Because if Mom says yes,….. then we are in for the time of our lives.