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Kamrani: Rooting for Johnny Manziel in Cleveland

By Christopher Kamrani

| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published May 09 2014 11:56 pm • Last Updated May 10 2014 05:51 pm

Time to find out what channel the Cleveland Browns play on. I haven’t watched a Browns game since Bernie Kosar was the quarterback. But like the fervent football fans everywhere, I’ll find a way to watch Johnny Manziel put the city of Cleveland on his shoulders.

I like polarizing sports figures. In this profession, they’re as interesting as the story lines and in-depth features created by the media covering them. In terms of hype, Manziel is as ESPN as it comes. Skip Bayless can’t stop talking about him, Twitter can’t stop posting his name, and when he sat in the green room during the first round of the NFL Draft Thursday night in New York City, millions of people were waiting on this guy to be called.

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Dude’s a big deal.

Hell, a picture of Manziel sipping on a beer in the green room started circulating soon after the Houston Texans took South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney with the first overall pick. It was clearly photoshopped. Which is fine. That’s what the Internet does. And it was hilarious. He eventually was picked by the Cleveland Browns, a place known for its heartbreak and close calls.

This development may give Cleveland hope. The city now has a symbol in the post-LeBron James Era.

Which isn’t exactly fair to Johnny Football, a persona created by the media, because we’re starved for cheesy nicknames. When we see a talent — one who hangs out with Drake and other celebrities — the need is to keep that person confined to one attribute. Johnny Manziel is Johnny Football, but why?

If anything, the football culture has taken advantage of his straightforwardness. Manziel may be pulled in many different directions by many different people, but his play speaks for itself. He won a Heisman Trophy and put together some of the more memorable performances in college football history. He can huck it, and does it differently than most.

"I think I’m Johnny Manziel. Johnny Football is what I am in the media and what is out there," Manziel said in his introductory news conference Friday with the Browns. "I accept it, I’m very accepting of it, but at the same time, I know who I am. I’m Johnny Manziel from Kerrville, Texas. I don’t let that get to me too much or let all that weigh me down or ever make me lose sleep at night."

Now he has to go to the Browns and figure out how to translate the moments of sheer insanity he produced while at Texas A&M to the bitter cold and bleak outlook that annually hangs over Cleveland.

I know I’ll be trying to find a place to watch the Browns this fall. I hope No. 2 is out there doing Johnny Manziel things. Stuff that is in no need of a gratuitous photoshop.

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Twitter: @chriskamrani

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