2023, Movies, Sports

Untold: Johnny Football (2023, Ryan Duffy)

I admit I didn’t know much about Johnny Manziel before watching this, beyond his nickname, that he flamed out in the NFL, and that people went a little crazy about him while he was in College. (I’m not sure I remembered he won the Heisman, because I do not care about about college football one iota.) I didn’t have much interest in this but I will watch a documentary about anything, especially anything sports related. I’m glad I watched it.

So this feels very “authorized.” The interviewees are primarily Manziel, his father, and his former friend, plus his mother, his agent and his former offensive coordinator. And I must say, to start I thought this was going to be a hagiography. It seemed to be trending that way.

But then the merchandise issue comes up and things change a lot. For one thing, we’re not sure Jenn and I have ever been more pro-fraud, especially when it comes to a bunch of meatheads committing fraud. The NCAA is a terrible organization, and it is just awesome to hear two guys talking about tricking them. Whatever feelings I may have about Manziel personally, I love that he did what he did with the autographs. He had so much power with his fame that, if anyone was going to get away with it, he was. Good for him.

I also think the agent’s plan for the draft was something else. I wonder how long he will have a job after his appearance in this film. (Maybe I don’t understand how this works.) As someone who doesn’t watch football and thinks the NFL is not super awesome, I really liked the plan he set in motion. These kids who don’t get paid in college should get as much money as they can before they get hurt. (I do know things are better now than they used to be.) If only Manziel could have kept it together they might have done it, and he might go down as an even bigger bust.

I do feel like we’re lacking perspective here, given how much we get from him and his family. But they seem pretty honest and it’s refreshing that he flat out says how he feels about football. He does seem like a bit of a bro, but he seems like he’s a little bit more self aware than you might think. (He and his friend do not seem super self aware.)

Much more interesting than I thought it would be.


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