Johnny Homeless

by David Weingarten

As a long-standing Cleveland sports fan, I’ve grown accustomed to being let down. First it was “the Drive,” then “the Fumble,” then “the Shot” and then “the Decision.” Collectively, our franchises have produced more disappointment than Kris Kardashian’s Fallopian tubes. It’s hard for Clevelanders to be optimistic about a place sportswriters affectionately refer to as “the Mistake by the Lake,” especially with all of our abandonment issues.

Everyone remembers LeBron’s decision to leave “the Mistake,” like a bitter bastard child from a sordid affair. What people outside of Cleveland don’t necessarily recall is that the entire Browns team did the same thing 15 years prior. The city closest to the Pro Football Hall of Fame was without professional football for almost four years. Then, out of pity, the NFL expanded, like a rotten vagina, and delivered a new team with the old Browns name and logo, as if nothing had ever happened (the same thing you do if your kid’s goldfish dies, except our new goldfish is missing an eye and soils itself while swimming in crooked circles).

Every year, like clockwork, we draft a new quarterback prospect and groom him into an unemployed alcoholic. Hiesman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel is the latest chapter in this seemingly endless book of sadness. After being drafted by the Browns earlier this year, “Johnny Football” opted to forego suicide and sign with the team.

Most fans are too busy burning the last athlete’s jersey to get excited just yet, but one particular group of Cleveland residents is convinced that Manziel is the answer to all of their problems: homeless people. They can empathize with his bad decisions because that’s the only kind they ever make. And Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is apparently looking to them for drafting advice.  According to several news outlets, Haslam was swayed to select the former Texas A&M standout after being approached in the street by a vagrant who mumbled “Draft Manziel!”.  Inspired by the man’s show of willpower in not stabbing him, the Browns’ owner took his expert advice and made the call.

Some teams rely on trained scouts and analytics to make personnel decisions, but not the Browns, not this time. This time, they turned to the crack-and-hunger-influenced perspective of homeless people, who often think outside the box even though they live in one.

After a little digging, I’ve uncovered the reason why Cleveland’s homeless people are so intrigued by Manziel. He has become famous for doing what he calls the “money sign” during celebrations, where he rubs his fingers together to symbolize money - a seemingly innocent hand gesture that has the entire vagabond community fascinated. They’re perplexed over how he can even call that a “money sign.” Isn’t a money sign supposed to be a sign that helps one beg for money? Manziel has no contrived sob story to go with his sign, no rattling cup of change, not even an insincere “God Bless You” to passersby trying to avoid eye contact. In the homeless world, money signs are handmade from refrigerator-box-grade cardboard and never associated with joy, so Manziel is being revered as a panhandling pioneer for his non-traditional technique. I think the homeless are holding onto the hope that, one day, Johnny Football will join them (along with every Browns quarterback prospect that preceded him) and they will all be one big happy orphanage-like family of mistakes by the lake.