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One Regret: No Johnny Football

September 15th, 2013 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, College football, Football, NFL, Sports Journalism, UAE

It has been explained here how difficult it is to follow college football, and what little of it could be seen, easily, is now gone.

Leave the country for four years, you realize most of college football you can get along without. With some exceptions. Your own team. Maybe your team’s league. A few of the bowls at the end of the year.

The rest sort of shrivels.

Once in a while, though, something forces its way into your consciousness, even an ocean away. Oregon’s offense; wow. Alabama; really good. And then this one particular kid, this quarterback at Texas A&M, “Johnny Football”.

Johnny Manziel, that is.

Him, I regret not being able to see.

I really would like to watch that guy in real time. This youtube video made by Texas A&M last year, ahead of Manziel winning the Heisman as a freshman … gives a sense of what he is about. Especially as a running quarterback.

But video doesn’t really tell the story. For that, you need to watch all 60 minutes. A time or three.

This may seem obvious, to everyone in the States, but on the eastern side of the Atlantic, U.S. college football Just Doesn’t Matter.

The NFL? Maybe a little. But not the colleges.

Most of the world recognizes tiers of competition, and nobody follows whatever is perceived to be “the second division” — and that’s how college football is viewed. Not as a self-sufficient sport to which the NFL may provide additional appreciation of talent, but as a lesser entity. One for kids. “Not the professionals? Not the zenith of the game? Why should we watch?”

But Johnny Manziel is so remarkable than even this far away we can feel the echoes of the impact he has made, even when four of our five wire services at The National do not run one word of college football. Even when ESPN has pulled out of Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Perhaps we know because nearly every journalist in the U.S. seems to have written about Johnny Manziel at some point in the past year.

As good as Johnny Manziel is, he also seems to resonate as a sort of ongoing experiment about too much too soon, and raw talent out of control, and train wreck in the making. A prodigiously gifted kid who drinks too much and has maturity issues and an ego of fearsome proportions.

Wright Thompson of ESPN did a massive story on Johnny Manziel, before the season, in which the author spent a lot of time with the player and his father, who clearly is the model for the son, and it’s fascinating and more than a little scary.

Over here, we get the impression that the framework of the 2013 college football season is established by Johnny Manziel, and A&M’s game with Alabama yesterday seems to have brought a country to a halt. That game seemed more about seeing what Johnny Manziel could do … and not about Alabama’s push for a third straight college football championship.

Manziel led A&M’s upset of Alabama a year ago, a defeat that didn’t keep the Tide from another national championship, and in the meeting yesterday he passed for five touchdowns and 464 yards and ran for another 98 yards.

The game inspired a writer at to marvel at how Alabama found itself sucked into playing the wide-open style Manziel has brought to A&M — and still won.

Yes, I would like to see this Johnny Manziel kid.

Maybe I could get someone back in the states to record a few games, and Fed-Ex a DVD over here to watch.

Because as good as he is, as remarkable as are so many of his performances, we also have gained the understanding that the whole of the Johnny Manziel Story, of a kid burning both ends of a candle, is almost guaranteed to end abruptly and in chaos, and we may never see anything quite like it again.

Even in Abu Dhabi, UAE, a few of us recognize that.


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