Let me set the scene. It was 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 6th in the mean streets of Cleveland, Ohio. Five twenty-something year-old Browns fans packed into a car like overgrown sardines headed for the Big Apple. Each of us had our own perspective on who the Browns should
curse select with their two first round picks. “Carr is obviously the best quarterback in the draft,” muttered Spitt. “Yeah, right. We take Carr and I’ll drive mine into the Atlantic,” I countered. What we all could agree on, though, was that we wanted to bring the legend of Johnny Football back to Cleveland to share with the city starving for a championship (or anything other than crippling depression).
Earlier that day, Jay Glazer, NFL Insider, tweeted the Browns would not consider drafting Johnny Manziel with the 4th overall pick. Glazer’s report combined with other news of the Buccaneers serious interest in Manziel led us to believe that Johnny Football in Cleveland was just another destroyed dream. Remember, it was just two years ago that the Browns tried and failed to trade up for Robert Griffin III, and instead got stuck with Trent Richardson. Luckily, the Three Stooges, more like the three wizards, were able to see that Richardson was a great candidate for Dancing with the (Almost) Stars, but quite possibly the worst football player of all-time. Luckily, the Browns called Colts owner Jim Irsay right after he did a few butt bumps, and got him to take Richardson for a 1st round pick.
Seven long hours later, we had arrived in the Big Apple prepared for the worst. At noon, we headed over to Radio City, where the line for tickets had already begun. We would’ve been one of the first couple schmucks in line, but Spitt insisted on getting a slice of pie from every “Original” Ray’s Pizza he laid his eyes on. (By the way, there’s about fifty Ray’s in New York City, so you can see why we were late.) Every type of person you could ever imagine (babies, hobos, Papa John) was lined up on the corner of the Avenue of the Americas and 50th Street waiting for the official Roger Goodell approved 2014 NFL Draft passes. After smokin’, drankin’ and sitting all day on a nasty New York City sidewalk, we finally received our official passes and wristbands around eight o’clock. By then, I had the black lung from ripping about forty-five heaters in three hours, which could possibly be a world record. So, obviously, I couldn’t wait to get back our single bed hotel room and sleep on the office chair. Our buddy, Jupe, got assigned to the floor, so I guess the chair wasn’t so bad. Had a cleaning lady accidentally walked in, she would have been extremely disturbed by the sight in this room to say the least.
Later on, we decided to go see what the New York City nightlife was all about. Not that we could afford it. We ended up coming across an Instagram photo from a member of Johnny F’ing Football’s entourage that showed a view of Times Square from their hotel. Upon further investigation, we determined the hotel graced with Johnny’s presence was the W. So, we shifted past security, scooted up the hidden elevator and strutted our way into the lobby bar, which was filled with people dressed way better than us obese, white-trash Cleveland folk.
Upon arrival, we quickly spotted the leader of Manziel’s lucrative autograph operation, Uncle Nate, who was double fisting mixed drinks, most likely triple vodka cranberries. We briefly attempted to blend in, but Spitt’s jorts stood out a bit too much. Before we knew it, Uncle Nate had drifted out of the lounge with some smoke show, presumably with one of John’s leftovers. We were just about to leave when we saw former NHL star and current boozer, Jeremy Roenick. So, we figured we’d stick around since it was fifteen dollar mixed drink night, while we waited to see if any other funny celebrities wondered in. While waiting, I wondered why my drinks we’re being served in shot glasses yet cost fifteen bucks, but I later realized it was most likely because they wanted me out of their establishment as soon as possible. Anyway, Manziel, Turtle, E and Drama were no-shows, so we paid our outrageous tab and left the bar without any cougars or hogs accompanying us, surprisingly enough. (In Cleveland, we pull hogs like Jack Hanna.)
The next day was the day we were all waiting for since the picture of Manziel in Scooby-Doo costume was released. We put on our jerseys of former Browns greats, Derek Anderson, Peyton Hillis, and Kellen Winslow Jr, for good luck and waddled over to Radio City. We quickly realized that our dream trip to the draft was turning into the nightmare we all knew it would eventually be. After getting in line hours early, we were placed directly behind the camera crew, which almost completely blocked our view of the stage. Like I said earlier, we would have been in the one of the front rows, but Spitt made us late by insisting on sampling every pizza place in Manhattan. The major problem, though, was the fact the NFL decided not to serve beer at this event. I figured the football and booze went hand in hand, but apparently not.
The draft began with the obvious selection of Clowney by the Texans with the first overall pick, but the draft really got underway with the Rams selection. Rumors were swirling that Rams coach, Jeff Fisher, was lobbying for Manziel to replace former first overall pick and bust, Sam Bradford, but this turned out to be a classic draft smokescreen. Now, the Jacksonville Jaguars were on the clock. I had convinced myself that this was the landing spot for Johnny Football, since Cleveland and I were forever cursed and banned from anything exciting. Instead, the Jaguars shocked the crowd, and took the hometown boy, balding Blake Bortles. The dream was still alive. Finally, the Browns were on the clock! Not to mention, Johnny F’ing Football was still back stage getting boozed, per usual. Johnny Football chants immediately echoed throughout Radio City. Then, before we could even enjoy the moment, Roger Goodell steamed to the podium, and announced the Browns had traded all the way back down to the 9th pick. As picks four through seven went by without John Paul Football’s name being called; we began to once again start believing. Minnesota, who owned the 8th pick, was rumored to be in the running for a quarterback, specifically Manziel. We all figured that our prayers for Johnny would be crushed right before our very eyes, but then, like a call from the heavens, Goodell proclaimed the Browns had swapped picks with the Vikings. THIS WAS IT! Johnny Football chants, that I’d like to think were started by us, slowly gained more and more steam. By the time Goodell strolled to the podium, the place was going about as insane as a place not serving alcohol could be. After what seem like an eternity, the commissioner finally announced the Browns had selected J……ustin Gilbert. Devastation. Johnny Football chants were immediately replaced by the classic “Cleveland sucks” chants initiated by the chubby Jets fans behind us. Without hesitation, I turned my Browns shirt inside out, and stormed off to the concession stand to eat my feelings. In hindsight, it was probably a blessing in disguise the NFL decided not to serve alcohol because there was a decent chance I would have ended up watching the conclusion of the draft live from the NYC drunk tank. After finally composing myself, I reluctantly wandered back to my seat just in time to see Jerry Jones and the Cowboys pass on the hometown hero. Earlier, Adam Schefter had tweeted about rumblings of the Browns trying to trade up with the Titans for the 11th pick. That attempt failed, but the question was would they try again? The answer: YES! “The Philadelphia Eagles have traded the 22nd pick to the Cleveland Browns,” proclaimed Goodell.
This time around the Johnny Football chants could be heard throughout every borough. I proudly flipped my extra large custom Browns shirt back to reveal the Manziel #2, which I had covered up in shame earlier. At this point, my gut was completely out in Radio City, but I didn’t care. I squeezed back into the shirt just in time to see the commissioner step to the podium. And the rest is history…
Draft Day, Johnny Manziel, Five years later… rehab then Superbowl?