The Problem With Privilege

“Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful.
Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”

―John Wooden

Today’s story is about Johnny Manziel.

There is tension in Texas. In a state where football is religion, and star quarterbacks revered, the hot topic is 20-year-old Jonathan Manziel, aka “Johnny Football.”

Johnny Manziel

Johnny Manziel accepting the Heisman Trophy, 2012

Will he lead another record-breaking season for Texas A&M? Or will his off-field missteps lead to a major disappointment for thousands of Aggies?

Last year, Johnny became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. He is one of five quarterbacks (and the only freshman) in NCAA history to pass for 3,000, and run for 1,000 yards, in a single season.

The problem? One day, he is the iconic football hero. The next, he is arrested in an altercation supposedly involving racial slurs and a fake drivers license. Recently, it’s alleged he accepted money for signing autographs. That could make him ineligible to play.

Apparently, the Manziel family is flush with inherited Texas oil money. Johnny grew up in a luxurious home on a golf course. His father bought him a new Mercedes last year. Obviously, he is not familiar with the concept of “living on a budget.”

And Johnny’s gift for athletics is innate. It’s said he has not been forced to work as hard, or undergo the rigorous training most find necessary, for athletic success. As his own father, Paul, says of his son with a shrug, “He ate Skittles, drank beer and won the Heisman.”

Last year, his family and his coach mandated that he attend alcohol counseling. “I really don’t know what makes him tick,” say his father, Paul. On the golf course with Dad, Johnny is said to hurl clubs down the fairway or break them over his knee in a sign of immature frustration.

“I don’t know where the anger comes from,” Dad says. “I don’t think he knows.”

So what is the problem with Johnny Football?

Could it be unpaid dues? Not having to struggle at all? Not having to fall on your face over and over, but get up and gear-up to take the field of football, the field of life again?

As parents, we intuitively want to provide our kids with the best life we can; to give them the world. We also naturally rejoice in the God-given talents of our children.

But no matter how much we have to give, or how naturally gifted our kids, perhaps we need to balance privilege and penance.

Robert Heinlein aptly quoted,

“Don’t handicap your children by making their lives easy.”

With good looking, naturally gifted children, we may need to create a few roadblocks; to actually make our child’s path a bit harder than it otherwise needs to be.

In other words, don’t just give them the world, make them earn it.

Johnny Manziel

Johnny Manziel, freshman quarterback

“The Trouble With Johnny,” by Wright Thompson, ESPN The Magazine, July 30, 2013.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Current month ye@r day *