Sports

Johnny Manziel to join bold, bizarre spring football league where fans pick the plays

Johnny Football is back! Sorta.
Image: Getty Images

This week Johnny Manziel told ESPN that he intends to play in Fan Controlled Football, a new 7-on-7 spring football league that kicks off in February.

“Life gives you opportunities sometimes to do something that you would still like to do if it was in a different capacity,” Manziel said of joining the league. “This has a lot of potential to just be a good time and still be football centric.”

Fan Controlled Football appears to be, literally, fan-controlled. Fans get to call plays and make roster decisions.

“So… is this Madden?” Basically, but with real people.

“So… it’s just football?” Sure, but you control what you see on the screen.

According to FCF co-founder and CEO Sohrob Farudi, the league wants to target a younger demographic and a new kind of interactive audience. He told ESPN that he sees the new league as a “gamification” of football fandom, with contests streamed on Twitch.

“The younger generation isn’t sitting through a three-hour game anymore,” Farudi said. “They want it quick and easy. Part of our concept is, ‘Let’s give it to them quick and easy.’ It’s a one-hour game. It’s interactive. You’re watching and interacting at the same time.”

So can we call punts on first downs? Can we only run Hail Mary’s? How do we call audibles? Can I sign Mike Vick to get the cheat code? (shoutout to Madden ‘04). These are just some of the questions I have for FCF.

As for Manziel, it’s always easy and, quite frankly, lazy, to take a swipe at the 2012 Heisman Winner and NFL QB of two seasons. But you won’t read said swipe here.

Two years after Manziel was cut by the Browns he opened up to ABC News about his struggles with depression and drinking.

“I was self-medicating with alcohol. That’s what I thought would make me happy and get out of that depression,” Manziel said in 2018. “Where did that get me except out of the NFL? Where did that get me? Disgraced?”

Yup, and add a domestic assault charge in 2016 (which was later dropped), he was a disgrace.

But it’s hard to hammer someone who recognizes their faults and seeks help, which is exactly what Manziel did. And I don’t blame him for joining this bizarre league to make a living playing a game he loves.

“I wake up with a smile on my face way more than I used to in the past, when people would have said that I had everything,” Manziel said recently.

“It’s funny how life works sometimes. You have everything and you can be upset, and when you have a lot less, you can be way happier. I’m at a point in my life where I’m 28 years old and I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing moving forward and trying to re-create an identity, and that’s what the past year has been about for me.”

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