The Long Winding Windy Road for Johnny Football

You could tell he was pissed by the time pick 18 was up on the big board. He’d watched both of his teammates also invited to sit in the green room with him go off the board in the first 7 picks of the draft, both back to back. He knew that Houston wasn’t going to take him with the number 1 pick overall, and just watched his childhood favorite team pass him over for an offensive linemen at 16.

Pissed for sure. Probably a bit humiliated by still sitting there in his fancy suit. Definitely disappointed by not going in the top 10, and definitely worried that every subsequent pick was costing him six figures of $$ at a time. The glamor of being a top pick was gone. The glamor of being a Texas boy drafted by not only Texas’ flagship NFL team but “America’s Team” was gone. All that was left was whichever team he was destined to play for in the NFL to snatch him up, and we all have known deep down in our bellies for a while that it would be Cleveland.

Cleveland. The Mistake on the Lake. The punchline to every joke about pathetic teams and beaten down cities. The place with the most dedicated fans (whose owner had so much regard for that he packed up the offices onto an 18 wheeler and drove to Maryland with the team, all its trophies, and all its history).

No one wants to be a Browns fan. You are either born into it or drafted into it.

The Browns have a bunch of championships won decades ago before the NFL existed, yet somehow still are regarded as one of the keepers of NFL spirit. Unless you have a reason to go there, you would never find yourself there. People from there think it’s the greatest place on Earth. Well, all except Art Modell and Lebron James, I guess.

As an Aggie tried and true in more way than 12, the topic of “Where’s Johnny gonna play in the NFL?” is volleyed at me regularly (up until last night around 11pm), and my regular answer is “Well, he’d be great in Houston, no way he can go to Dallas because of Romo’s contract, and Jax could use him to keep from having to move to London, but really anywhere but Cleveland and I’m good.”

I’ll bet I’m not the only one who shares that same feeling.

My impression of Cleveland is a dirty industrial city where it gets cold around November and there’s not much to do outside of staying in the house and getting chicks pregnant, which is why there are still people who live in Cleveland. The accents of the people there are some of the most grating noises a human can create. The women are pasty white and peanut buttery since the sun is only up 10 or 15 days of the year. We are talking total shithole, right?  I have no idea, though…that’s just my impression after hearing others talk about it.

Oddly enough, that’s kinda like what people not from College Station say about our fair ‘burb. Remember when Johnny was getting harassed by the smalltown cops and tweeted that he couldn’t wait to get out of this tiny shitass town? From frying pan to fire, Jonathan.

The correlation between the Browns and Aggies isn’t totally wasted on me, although I’d much rather be miles from Mexico than miles from Canada for no reason other than the food and the access to cheap prescription drugs.

I can’t say for sure that it’s poetic justice that the smalltown boy turned celebrity gets stuck in a small college city only to be stuck in a small NFL city. The irony that Cleveland experienced its football heyday decades ago and A&M did the same isn’t lost on me, nor that during the 80’s both teams experienced near great runs without championships, nor that they both sucked gens throughout the 00’s save for a game here or there that gave respective fanbases hope.

Johnny was a big fan of the great big ol’ monolithic Texas t-sip Longhorns growing up in Tyler where there’s tons of football tradition and multiple state championships between John Tyler and Robert E Lee High Schools, but ended up playing football at Tivy High School in Kerrville, Texas, after his family moved there. The sips weren’t all that interested in having him play for them, so he ended up playing for little ol’ Texas A&M.

There’s a pattern here.

Grows up around football excellence, ends up playing high school football where football rarely gets much attention.

Deserves to be ranked as one of the best football players his age across the country, ends up as a middle-of-the-road 3-star ranked recruit.

Wants to play at the big popular college team, ends up where football has sucked hind tit for the entirety of the dawn of the Internet.

Wants to play for the Dallas Football Cowboys, ends up in shitass Cleveland where they’ve had more quarterbacks on their sidelines in 10 years than offensive linemen, including the incredibly overrated Colt McCoy.

Hmmmm.

Admittedly, the most I know about Cleveland is what I described earlier. I’ve never been there. I don’t expect to go there. I can’t think of a single Browns fan I’ve ever met. I think that Cleveland is pretty much the worst place to have to play football based on those assumptions alone.

I’d bet that most people from Cleveland have no idea where College Station is located. I doubt most have ever been here, and I doubt even harder that they ever expect to come here. Most of their fans probably have never met a real live whoopin’ fightin’ fuckin’ Texas Aggie. They probably think that living in College Station, Texas, is probably the worst place a human can live with all our deserts and saguaro cacti littering the landscape.

Not to burst the bubble of the sudden fans of Texas A&M who live in Cleveland, but we don’t really have that many cactus deserts in Texas where people live, and definitely not around College Station. Not to burst the bubble of Texans who think that Cleveland is all dirt and grime, but a perfunctory search of Cleveland shows that it’s not just industrial factories and shipyards. Note to Clevelanders: we don’t all own cows and horses (although some of us do). Note to Aggies: Not all Clevelanders have that creepy northern perma-grin smeared across their oily faces at all times, although some of them do.

College Station is home to one of the greatest football venues on the planet with one of the most loyal fanbases you could imagine.  Substitute “Cleveland” for the first word in that sentence and read it over again.  If you’ve never been there, you’d probably never know it to be true.  But it is.

My longwinded and meandering point is that the greatest college football player and biggest celebrity among college sports probably wasn’t supposed to play for a team struggling to stay above .500 from 2000-2010 and who was sucking on the snotty end of the success revolver during that time. The best player ever should be playing for a big time team, right?

If football karma really existed, then Johnny should have played for multiple national championships and won multiple Heismans and would have been the #1 pick in this year’s draft to the Dallas Cowboys, who would then go on to win every football game he ever played for them, then go on to have the Hall of Fame renamed in his honor.

But as we’ve found, Johnny takes a very long and winding road to get where he’s going. He goes about life in his own way, goes about football in his own way, and ends up mowing down tall grass to make his own path. Of all the tweets on the night of the NFL Draft’s first round, Johnny was the subject in a full 5.2% of ALL tweets in America. That’s astounding. He’s as big as any other football player in terms of scene as there has ever been, yet he’s plied his craft in little ol’ Kerrville, College Station, and now windy Cleveland.

After 20 other teams decided that Johnny wasn’t a good fit for them or they didn’t need what he offered, he ends up in a world he should be accustomed to at this point. And the fans of Johnny that he’s picked up along the way are as loyal as any you’ve ever seen, just like those Browns fans who were either born into it or drafted into it and just like all of us Aggie fans, true to each other as Aggies can be.

Now, all of us lifelong Aggies are suddenly Browns fans inexplicably, hunting out for the nearest sporting goods store that might carry Browns/Manziel gear because if there’s one thing that we all have in common now, Brown Aggies, is that we are loyal and we will buy anything with our logo slapped on it.

I’ve got to say, though…these uniforms are hideous. It’s going to take a bit to get used to it, but if anyone can make these colors look good, it’s Johnny Fucking Football.

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