I am an unabashed Johnny Manziel homer. To me Johnny is family. I can criticize him to other members of my family, but the second someone else steps in and says something negative about him, I'll step to blindly defend him. He's our boy.
I am also struggling with my NFL fandom. Truthfully, I wouldn't care a single bit about the NFL without Johnny in it. The NFL is boring, sterile, and filled with nothing but flags and commercials. Given the popularity of the league and how lucrative it is, I'm probably in the minority here...but everything that College Football is, the NFL isn't (if that makes sense). But somehow I've found myself being glued to the TV for the past two Browns preseason games. Absolutely glued. To the point that I paused the game to use the restroom so I didn't miss anything. To the point that I actually gave a little fist pump when Connor Shaw hit that last hail mary. I can't help it. I actually have a reason to care about the NFL now.
And it's with that in mind that I think the NFL needs Johnny badly. He brings unpredictability to a predictable league. He wears his emotions on his sleeve and therefore gets us to be more emotional about the game itself. Washington DL Brian Orakpo (who started the trash talking by cashing out after sacking Johnny early in the game) admitted that he and his teammates were giving Johnny a hard time from the sidelines, and found Johnny's response pretty entertaining.
Spoke to a Redskins player who saw Manziel give finger. Didn't upset him at all. "I love that guy." Full wrap coming up on @FOXSportsLive.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) August 19, 2014
So the folks to whom the gesture was intended had no issue with it, but pearl clutchers all over country are using it as another data point in the "Johnny Manziel has lost control" narrative.
When was the last time any player cared so much about a preseason game that they'd give the finger to the opposing team? When has there been this level of open competitive drive in a Browns game?
Johnny is polarizing. But guess what...national media is spending time talking about a Cleveland Browns' preseason game beyond just the results. When was the last time that happened?
The NFL needs Johnny. Desperately. They need his moxie. They need his spark.
It seems like the NFL has been dominated by negative off the field news lately, whether it be Ray Rice or Josh Gordon. And I know that Johnny has had his off the field adventures, but it kind of feels good to be talking about competition on the field, regardless of the fact that the competition presented itself through a obscene gesture. So as a fledgling NFL fan, I appreciate Johnny for bringing some excitement to an otherwise boring league of play.