Ken’s Column: Let’s not delight in the failures of others

Published 12:26 pm Wednesday, April 10, 2019

On Tuesday morning, as I was getting ready for work, I was listening to a sports radio station out of Atlanta, WZGC FM 92.9, on my iPhone. It was their midday show and one of their hosts was Randy McMichael, a former UGA and Miami Dolphins football player. One of their other hosts, Mark Owens, decided to play an interview that former ESPN talk-show host Dan Patrick did with former Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Those of you who follow the NFL and college football know that Manziel won the Heisman Trophy in 2012 while at Texas A&M. He was the first freshman ever to win that award. He was drafted by the Cleveland Browns as the 22nd overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Unfortunately for Manziel and the Browns, his play on the field was sub-par and he had a few off-field issues as well, including a misdemeanor assault charge that was eventually dropped. The Browns released Manziel after two seasons. He spent the next two years out of football before being signed by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL (Canadian Football League). According to an article in USA Today written by Tom Schad, Manziel’s stint in the CFL was also brief because he failed to uphold the terms of his contract. Manziel told USA Today Sports that he had stopped drinking and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

“That’s the scary thing about my mental health. If I don’t continuously take care of it and make it the biggest priority in my life, I’m going to struggle,” Manziel said. “That’s hard to say. You’re making mental health a priority over your job. Well, there is no job without my mental health. There is no life and there is no family for me without my head.”

Shortly after getting kicked out of the CFL, Manziel was signed by the Memphis Express of the now-defunct Alliance of American Football (AAF). One of the reasons this league was formed was so that players who had either been cut by NFL teams or were in the process of trying to make it to the NFL for the first time could get some playing experience and hopefully impress an NFL team. The AAF began play in February of this year and was in its eighth week before the league suspended operations a week ago because it couldn’t reach an agreement with the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) to use players at the end of NFL rosters.

Before the AAF suspended operations, Manziel started a game for the Express before getting injured.

You may ask ‘Where are you going with all of this?’ My point is that in my opinion, some in the media, whether it be sports writers or sports talk-show hosts, seem to delight in poking fun at athletes who have made bad choices but are trying to redeem their careers and are trying to do the right things. When McMichael heard a clip of Patrick’s interview with Manziel, he said, ‘Why is he still relevant? I’m sick of hearing about him. Why doesn’t he (Manziel) just go kick rocks?’

My response to McMichael would be, ‘Why can’t you root for someone who is trying to make amends for their past transgressions and trying to resurrect their career?’ It’s a shame that the AAF stopped operations. That was the absolute last thing that needed to happen to Manziel.

Back to my main point: Sports journalists in radio and print media need to stop “kicking people while they’re down.” I, for one, am rooting for Manziel to overcome his demons and make a return to the NFL, even if it’s just as a backup quarterback.

I hope that he can get another opportunity to play somewhere, such as the Arena League or the upcoming XFL. If he gets that opportunity, which I think he will, he will hopefully make the most of it and show NFL teams that he can play. I’m rooting for Johnny Manziel to succeed, not to fail. He has too much talent to waste.


Ken Gustafson is the sports editor for the Americus Times-Recorder. To contact him, go to or call 229-924-2751.