In a few short years, how does a young man go from one the brightest futures in professional sports to potentially losing nearly everything?
Johnny Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, has been accused of ‘extensive damage’ during some festivities he hosted in a posh Los Angeles rental home in early April. According a letter written by Niki Ghazian, attorney for the property owner, Manziel along with his friends left evidence of alcohol and drug use. The homeowner is now asking for $31,580 including $19,580 in damage and replacement fees(ESPN News Services, 2016).
This latest incident of poor behavior for the former Cleveland Browns Quarterback resulted in his second off-season agent, Drew Rosenhaus, terminating his contract unless he immediately seeks help(ESPN, 2016). Rosenhaus has never fired a player during his 27-year career as an NFL agent but he believes Manziel must set his football career aside for now, "This is a life-or-death situation. I'm not talking about football anymore. I'm talking about a young man who is in trouble. And at the end of the day, I have a responsibility. I'm not going to see him go down in flames with me as his agent” (ESPN, 2016).
Manziel, a first round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, spent two seasons with the Browns but was more known for his struggles and antics off the field. He spent 10 weeks in rehab during his rookie season.
He currently is under both a grand jury and NFL investigation as to whether he assaulted his former girlfriend and violated the NFL personal conduct policy in the incident.
Self-sabotaging Choices and Beliefs
For several years, Manziel has bled the line between high performance and a high price for his choices. Since the loss of his job with the Browns, he has looked captive by automatic choices in action that lead to a path of destruction.
His conduct seems to suggest he wants to ruin his NFL career. Along with this recent episode of allegedly damaging the LA rental home, the Texas A&M standout has been seen in strip clubs and chugging from bottles in nightclubs in Las Vegas, Miami, and Los Angeles.
Following his initial effort to get help, Manziel brought in his high school offensive coordinator, 55-year-old Julius Scott, to live with him as a life coach of sorts (Kaplan, 2016). Scott’s services were short-lived, however, and Manziel dismissed him at the end of the summer prior to the start of the 2015 NFL season.
Public actions reveal a lot about the athlete but the private intentions of Manziel reveal more. He recently told TMZ he does not see anything wrong with ‘partying’ indicating there is a ‘difference between partying and being out of control (ESPN, 2016). Multiple interviews with former coaches, teammates, and friends paint a picture of a lack of discipline and commitment, a lack of listening, and a culture of enabling and affluence (Kaplan, 2016).
Disease or Voluntary Bondage?
While it is not clear if Manziel has an addiction, he exemplifies a man volunteering to a lifestyle that is costing him dearly both personally and professionally. While normal human desires, his lust for freedom and pleasure are at levels which have enslaved him at some level.
The precise definition of a disease remains a diagnosable condition with a known physical origin. Addictions do not fit this definition and even the popular Alcoholics Anonymous states ‘alcoholism is largely a spiritual disease requiring a spiritual healing’ (Alcoholics Anonymous, 1970).
Science does indicate some physiological pre-dispositions towards addiction when compared to people who do not battle addiction. Nonetheless, addiction appears more a result from the extensive use of the substance and from the influence around the addict.
The extensive use of the substance creates a physical response to the drug. Tolerance develops which means a need for more and more of the substance to obtain the same effect. Extensive use also produces withdrawal symptoms when ceasing use of the drug; therefore, it generates a perceived need for the drug or similar drug to avoid such symptoms.
The influence around a substance habit centers around the power and persuasion of a peer culture, socio-economic status, parenting, and the solidification or not of morals and values (Welch, 2001). Other people around Manziel and his cultural norm can pull and persuade him towards negative choices such as chemical over-indulgence and weak selections in behavior.
Motives Dig Deeper Than Biology and Influence
Beyond the surface of behavior lie intangible motives. These desires often act as a conduit towards misuse of substances generating thoughts and behavior standard in addiction. The problem, however, is not with the substance itself or the biology or influence towards use. Rather, the problem rests with the motive of the heart (Welch, 2003).
Whether it is alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, or food, the pattern of behavior seems unavoidable and automatic. Often, asking ‘why did you do that?’ is met with ‘I don’t know’ and the belief it is not controllable.
When examining the case of Johnny Manziel, his behavior appears chosen to satisfy deeper motives. Substance use give temporary satisfaction to drives such as comfort, pleasure, power, freedom from pain, revenge, autonomy, happiness, respect, admiration, significance, and reputation (Welch, 2003).
The Bottle or His Career?
Manziel’s battle with poor choices may be partly due to the influence of athletic, family, peer, and the American environment where power, wealth, and superior ability are idolized. His battle may be partly due to physical predisposition further enhanced by his heavy use of alcohol.
Those closest to him, including his parents, are now publicly pleading for him to get help. His trajectory in the NFL is in question. And, his life may very well be hanging in the balance. One decision could cost him more than his job.
This is an avoidable destiny. He can choose to stop. He needs to believe that.
Alcoholics Anonymous. (1970). A Member's Eye View of Alcoholics Anonymous. New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services.
DiNitto, M. (2016, April 17). Von Miller says Johnny Manziel has been abandoned, wants to help. Retrieved from Sporting News: http://www.sportingnews.com/nfl-news/4702308-johnny-manziel-von-miller-support-roommates-texas-am
ESPN. (2016, April 15). Drew Rosenhaus terminates contract with Johnny Manziel, will reconsider if QB gets treatment. Retrieved from ESPN: http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/15198881/agent-drew-rosenhaus-terminates-contract-johnny-manziel-reconsider-qb-gets-treatment
ESPN News Services. (2016, April 16). Johnny Manziel accused on nearly $20K in damage to rental home. Retrieved from ESPN: http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/15209661/johnny-manziel-accused-causing-nearly-20k-damage-los-angeles-rental-home
Kaplan, E. (2016, March 15). The Fall of Johnny Football. Retrieved from Sports Illustrated: http://mmqb.si.com/mmqb/2016/03/15/johnny-manziel-nfl-cleveland-browns
Mayo Clinic. (2014, December 5). Diseases and Conditions: Drug Addiction. Retrieved from MayoClinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/drug-addiction/basics/tests-diagnosis/con-20020970
Welch, E. (2001). Addictions: New Ways of Seeing, New Ways of Walking Free. Journal of Biblical Counseling, 19-30.
Welch, E. (2003). Motives: Why Do I Do the Things I Do? Journal of Biblical Counseling, 48-56.