On Good Morning America, February 12th, Johnny Manziel acknowledged in an interview that he suffers from Bipolar Disorder and depression, is currently on medication to treat both mental health issues, and claimed that he is still trying to return to football.
For many people, particularly Browns fans, there's clearly a lot of disbelief and anger that is still going to follow Johnny around. Add to that quite a few people who believe mental health is just "KIDS NOT BEING TOUGH ENOUGH~!" and its lead to two very serious camps in reacting to the story:
1. Johnny is lying, trying to cover up his own actions and reinsert himself into the national discussion.
2. Who cares about mental health issues? Johnny is a scuzzball for the rest of his life, and doesn't deserve more chances.
The thing is, as much as Johnny has violated the right to be taken seriously without doubt on numerous occasions, I do believe him when he says that he's been dealing with mental health concerns. I also believe that he's been a scuzzball, but we're missing the bigger picture here.
I'll preface this by saying that I believe mental health is an issue that needs to be taken seriously; if you read that and it makes you believe I'm some dumb, soft, millenial goofball, hey, fair enough. Considering the amount of people that I think would benefit with just one visit to a mental health professional, not even to be placed onto medication or be severely diagnosed, but just to get a better understanding of how their brain works, I'm on the side of dealing with it head on. I digress...
Gary Vaynerchuk (aka that guy you see sending inspirational speeches on Facebook every once in a while) was interviewed recently and asked about a younger internet celebrity, and himself admitted that if he had been around the bad influences, all the money, drugs, women, and alcohol, he would have never had a chance to succeed. That mirrors the situation Johnny Manziel has been in for years; this is a kid that since basically middle school has been asked to be "Johnny Manziel, future NFL Franchise Quarterback and Megastar", with a support system that truly did absolutely nothing to support him in that process.
That in no way is meant to be an excuse for the person that Manziel became; he made terrible, terrible choices and has done some things that are flatly unacceptable and uncouth. In the process, however, I do believe that there are some people that need to own just as much blame for allowing this to happen.
Bipolar disorder, depression, and mental health issues in genera are things that are often not easily seen by the naked eye. However, the warning signs of Johnny Manziel having a strained mental state have been existent ever since he stepped into the limelight while at Texas A&M. We've heard the interviews with agents, teachers, coaches, teammates, family members who have all had grave concern for the way their son was living his life, all the while trying to become an NFL star. Every "solution" to the problems either exacerbated the problem further or acted as a band-aid. He's been consistently enabled to be this kind of hurricane of human waste, and there have been no lessons learned as a result.
I do truly mean that; he's learned nothing, because again, in that interview with GMA, Manziel claimed that he still wants to try to get back into the NFL. For what?
A goalpost was set for Johnny Manziel at some point in his life that his only way to be a "winner", to feel truly successful, was to become an NFL QB, a wildly fantastic one, and gain all of the trappings and accolades that it provided. Someone needs to remind Manziel that this perception of "winning" is as fickle as anything else; the NFL offers no guarantees, and it doesn't come with a built in life-span for success. This misses that people, even of the same clout, don't succeed the same way. The NFL is no different. How many players have gone through the NFL to become faceless, to not have their millions of dollars and accolade forever? For every Brett Favre there are a million faceless names that have no place in the record books, as sad as it is to say.
Further, I think more NFL players today understand that the NFL is not only not forever, it's probably done faster than one would think. Look at guys like Joe Thomas, who are literally the best in the game at their position, seemingly preparing for life after football before even retiring. Very, very few people get to be Tom Brady and not only play for as long as he has, but be successful for as long as he has. When the game is over, life (unfortunately) has to go on, and for Manziel, I don't believe he's seen what lies beyond it yet, or that he ever will. It seems borderline obsessive and damaging. For anyone who has seen the E:60's on some older wrestlers (such as Scott Hall or Ric Flair) who live and die with their business and allow it to consume them to the point that they can't see the harm their choices outside of their career are doing to them and those around them, it sounds eerily familiar.
Maybe Manziel sees a successful return to the NFL as his means for forgiveness; that, much like Michael Vick did, he can use victory as a means for forgiveness. Please don't twist that, however: forgiveness does not mean acceptance. Many of the things Manziel did were not acceptable, but that doesn't mean that, in time, he could not earn forgiveness. It also flies over the fact that Vick's public image rehabilitation took much more work than simply slinging a football.
To me, if Johnny Manziel does truly want to be forgiven, if he wants to work past these mental issues and become a better person, to see a light at the end of the tunnel he's been down since he was a teenager, then it is time to do the one thing that it has taken far too long for Manziel to do; move beyond the NFL. Find his next calling, the thing that is going to allow him to actually become a better person and be happy with where he is in life. Acknowledging his issues and mistakes is a start, but now he needs to finally cut ties with the environment that has bred nearly all of his degradation.
Only 32 people get to start at QB in the NFL; perhaps a total of 96 get to even be on the teams backing up under center. Manziel is owed nothing, and he knows this, but the time has run out for him to earn one of those spots. Johnny needs to focus on getting his head right and moving toward a new future, one that is very likely not going to involve playing on the gridiron.
Forgive me if that's a bit harsh.