Building character is talked about by coaches and proponents of athletics, including me. I believe it.
Come next week, area high school athletes get into the full swing of fall sports — football, volleyball, cross country, swimming and boys’ golf. Coaches at Newton, Prairie City-Monroe, Colfax-Mingo, Collins-Maxwell/Baxter and Lynnville-Sully strive to help student-athletes grow as athletes, as students and as young adults in life.
After watching an NFL preseason game this week, I began to wonder what type of character some athletes built during their careers from peewee football through college football. Whether they want to be or not, college and professional athletes are held up as role models for our young athletes.
So, what kind of character did Johnny Manziel, the Cleveland Browns’ rookie quarterback, exhibit by his obscene gesture seen on Monday Night Football? Unfortunately, Manziel — in my opinion — shows a clear lack of maturity and character. His on and off field antics during his days at Texas A&M and now as a Browns player makes me cringe.
I know, I know. Manziel’s Browns jersey is the top selling NFL jersey. He won the Heisman Trophy. And he....
During the NFL playoffs, I wrote a column about the lack of character I saw in a postgame interview by Seattle Seahawks Richard Sherman. It was justified as “being in the moment.” Sherman made a tremendous defensive play to help the Seahawks seal a win against San Francisco, winning the NFC Championship. But it wasn’t the final play of the game and Sherman’s behavior wasn’t in the moment for the interview.
I was chastised by a former Daily News sports writer for questioning Sherman’s character. For me, Sherman knew better. Surely, Manziel knows better also. The difference in the two players is I don’t think Manziel cares how it appears to others.
We’ve become a society that takes vulgarity as the norm. Outbursts after an ego- crushing defeat are OK. We laugh about it. We allow it to slide because they are star players.
Character and sportsmanship are important. Handling the disappointment of a failed play or a defeat is part of learning how to handle the disappointments we face as adults in life.
Losing hurts. I had a close friend, who is a high school coach, say if a loss didn’t hurt, then you probably didn’t care enough about the task at hand. You learn and move on.
Manziel needs to take lessons from some of the young athletes in the 2014 Little League World Series. You don’t think Mo’ne Davis of Philadelphia has been under a lot of pressure being only the 18th girl to play in the LLWS and the only one to win a game pitching for a team. Or the team from Chicago as the first-ever team comprised of all African-American players hasn’t felt the pressure.
These youth have exhibited great poise and sportsmanship throughout their run at the tournament. They’ve shown character under the spotlight.
Take a page out of their book, Manziel, become a man of character on and off the field.