Johnny Manziel Coverage Proves Public Stupidity

Earlier today, the Dallas Morning News reported the harrowing details of Johnny Manziel’s January 30 incident with his ex-girlfriend.   You really should read it and not just rely on everyone else’s account of the story, but here are the most important details that make the case such a serious one.  if the affidavit is true, then Manziel threw his ex on the bed, dragged her to his car in the hotel’s valet, slapped her and ruptured her eardrum when she jumped out of the car, threatened to kill both of them and then just himself, brought her forcifully to her apartment, and finally, only left when she picked up a knife in self-defense.

There are a few details of the situation that make it hard to digest and form a proper judgment.  The first is that Manziel is clearly on drugs of some kind, and I’d be surprised if it was only one substance.  He threatened to kill himself while driving, and his father stated that he wouldn’t live to his 24th birthday in 10 months if he doesn’t go to rehab.  It all reeks of a guy who’s depressed that he was on top of the world at Texas A&M, then turned to substances when he became depressed that he was so overmatched as an NFL quarterback.  That’s my guess, but nobody should pretend they know exactly what’s happening in his head.  Either way, Manziel does deserve some sympathy for his clear addiction.

I could go on for days about how much I hate that the American justice system is all kinds of screwed up when it comes to dealing with drug addictions — which the American Psychological Association stated was 50% due to genetic predisposition… and that was almost 8 years ago.  You know, back when the 8th-seeded Boston Bruins were an up and coming team who had a chance to compete for a Cup in the next several years with the forward core of Phil Kessel, Marc Savard, and Marco Sturm.  I could go on for days — screw it, weeks — about how Portugal started treating drug addictions as a public health problem and not a reason for punishment in 2001… and then their drug addiction rate was cut in half within 10 years.

However, with as much sympathy as I have for someone with a devastating addiction, the allegations that involve rupturing his ex’s eardrum and making her fear for her life are inexcusable. If Manziel did what his ex claims (which I have no reason to doubt, but they still are unproven), then the actions were reprehensible.  In fact, I’d argue that they’re far, far worse than what Ray Rice did, because not only did Rice’s wife not have her eardrum ruptured and not fear for her life, but Rice committed his act in a single moment, as opposed to Manziel’s whole night’s worth of malice.

So why does no one care about Manziel nearly as much about Ray Rice?  Well, there are a few reasons.  I don’t buy the idea that Manziel hasn’t been proven guilty but Ray Rice was automatically guilty since a security camera caught Rice’s punch, because we live in an era — especially when it comes to the internet — when people feel that they’re “supposed” to deem someone guilty so as not to doubt the victim, especially in the case of violence related to gender.  I wholeheartedly disagree with that mindset, by the way, and I’m not saying that we should close the book on Manziel and say assume he’s guilty.  I’m only saying that the allegations should be taken very, very seriously, and I’m surprised that more people don’t care, given society’s tendency in 2016 of assigning guilt without having all the facts.

The first reason that people aren’t as worked up about Manziel as they were about Rice has more to do with Manziel’s overall transgressions, rather than just this latest incident.  I would never bring up race without having a good reason, because race is too important to just throw around.  But let’s look at Johnny Football’s laundry list of screw ups.  He started off by — you know what, nevermind.  I don’t have the patience to go through all of this, and it’d add about 300 words to this column.  Just read the “personal life and controversies” section of his Wikipedia page.  Now, try and tell me that this guy would have been treated even close to similarly if he were black.  We’d hear cliches like, “We can’t have guys of his character playing in the NFL — think of the kids!!!!!”

Having said all that, race is a distant second factor in terms of the reaction to the January 30 fight specifically.  When we compare what Manziel did and what Rice did, there is one main reason why very few people are getting as worked up about Manziel: Video.  Rice’s punch was captured on video, and then it became sexy to how much you cared about how horrible of a human being Ray Rice was.  With Manziel, there may be more harrowing and stomach-churning details, but who cares about that shit?  Video is the only thing that matters.

There is no other way to describe this social phenomenon than to say that it is utter stupidity. If we’re all gonna proclaim that certain actions (especially violence against women) is disgraceful, then it shouldn’t be the video that makes such actions disgraceful.  Yet, that’s where we find ourselves.  The Rice situation was an even better example, because every football fan and non-football fan was shouting from the rooftops that the NFL’s handling of domestic violence cases was pathetic.  They were right, but where was the outrage in the previous cases?  Between 2006, the year that Roger Goodell took over as commissioner, and the Rice elevator incident, there were 57 cases of domestic violence.  A whopping 34 went undisciplined, and none of other 23 faced a punishment as “tough” as Rice’s original 2 game suspension.  No one cared until there was a video of one of the women getting her lights knocked out.

Pics or it didn’t happen.

During the Fall of 2014, I noticed that a common aspect of public opinion about the Rice case was a feeling that the public deserved some credit for making the NFL change its ways.  People really wanted to pat themselves on the back for enacting some societal good.  That’s fine, but if you’re gonna try to take credit for the positive response in a single situation, you should take the blame for not giving a single fuck about any of the other cases.  There were 57 other women who needed society to care, and nobody did.

That’s exactly what’s happening here.  I can’t stress enough that we shouldn’t deem Manziel to be automatically guilty until we have some proof, but don’t you think that it would only be consistent for the public to at least be aware of the serious allegations against him?  I may not believe in deeming a guy to be guilty without hard proof, but it’d be nice if there was enough public outrage to make Manziel have to answer to the allegations before the long, arduous court process commences.  But again, outrage only happens when there’s a video.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the hotel produced a video of what happened, especially with the valet.  There are always cameras in those kinds of places.  When that happens, the public will suddenly care and proclaim that Manziel should be given the death penalty.  I’ll be right here, wondering where you were when the story should have been a big deal, long before the video ever comes out.  But you might be too busy patting yourself on the back for making a difference in an issue that you just remembered to care about.

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