Magic, Donny Baseball, Larry Legend and Johnny Football\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
I have been a football fan since the mid 1940’s. Yes, I rooted for the Brooklyn Dodger football team in the old AAFC. If you remember those days, you are as old as me. To me all of the happenings since then are not history at all. They are things that I remember happening. I do have a pro football encyclopedia to help me, but most of it still resides in my brain. I do remember Frank Tripuka, Bobby Layne, Don Panciera (who), Buddy Young and George Taliaferro.
I can remember Jim Brown playing for his high school team in the 50’s and then going on to Syracuse and the pros. He was a hard rock kind of guy and not just on the field. In the 1960’s, he was a strong voice in the Black Power movement. He is still that strong man in 2013 in his 70’s.
There are some people you just remember because of their athletic ability and some because they transcended the playing fields. Some made it into pop culture. Were there two more popular and competitive basketball players than Larry Bird and Earvin Magic Johnson? Even their nicknames, Magic and Larry Legend portended their abilities to be something more than players.
There were no reasons to think of them as models for younger kids, unless your child was 6 feet 9 inches tall. They did not comport themselves with great dignity or aplomb. They were somehow more than the sum of their pieces. Magic was a truckload of happiness and wonder that he made it that far. His battle with the HIV virus was done with the same spirit that he had when he played. Yes, he got the virus from a source outside his marriage. I understand that. However, he was not bowed by his tragic mistake and neither is he today.
Larry Legend is the supreme name of a dour and uncommunicative fellow. Bird, even in his current role with the Indiana Pacers is less than eloquent. Then why does he have that nickname. If you saw him play, you know the answer. Whenever Boston needed a score, Larry was there. It just did not happen once in a while, it happened all of the time.
Donny Baseball’s professional approach to the game as a player and now as a manager, oozed dignity. Yes, he might have complained once in a while, but his affect was that of a talented and calm individual. Nowhere in his demeanor was there any hysteria or lack of patience. He had a 14 year career with one team and he rarely complained about anything. He played first base in a subdued and graceful manner. There was just a class about him that he maintains today.
That brings me to the reason I am penning this. Johnny Manziel is none of the above things. He does not compare to any of the three aforementioned athletes. He is not subdued. He is not uncommunicative. He does not fill hearts with joy, as Magic has done. Yet, he is called Johnny Football.
What will we remember when he leaves the college ranks. If you have watched any of his games, you will remember them. He exudes confidence when large members of the other team are trying to rip him to pieces. He throws the ball with unerring accuracy on the run, when no one even sees who is free. He loves his teammates and his coach. Texas A & M loves him. He is not liked by other teams.
Yet, he fits into the same category as the other three. There is something about him that will endure. It won’t be a trivia question sometime in the future. “Who was the first freshman to win the Heisman?” People will talk about him, as they still do about Doug Flutie. No matter what he does in the pros, he will be remembered for both his on and off field exploits. I do not defend him as a young 20 year old. I believe that he is something special that most of us would like to emulate- a free spirit with a super abundance of talent.