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On the Ball: “Untold: Johnny Football” is an important story told all wrong

On Tuesday, Netflix released its latest installment of the docuseries “Untold,” in which the company aims to tell stories within the sports world that are beyond what is shared in the media. This week's edition was about none other than Johnny Manziel, dubbed “Johnny Football” during his college years at Texas A&M. 

Manziel is known for being a star college quarterback who never found success in the NFL. 

His story is one of abuse, addiction and mental disorder. “Untold” attempts to delve into this side of the illustrious quarterback. 

Manziel was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in late 2017. In the documentary, he says that he took the diagnosis as if he had been told he had a drug or alcohol problem. 

The quarterback struggled with alcohol and drug abuse throughout his career, reportedly using substances to escape the problems he encountered in his life. 

In the documentary, the star Texas A&M quarterback said he had planned to commit suicide shortly after being let go by the Cleveland Browns in the NFL. Manziel said he felt as if he had let down everyone in his life. “I wanted to spend as much money as I possibly could and then my plan was to take my life,” he said. 

Mental health in sports is something that is hardly talked about and this documentary tries to put a spotlight on it. It fails. 

Director Ryan Duffy fails to tell a few vital parts of the story such as the domestic abuse allegation that Manziel faced in 2016, which was made by his girlfriend at the time. Athletes are repeatedly shown to get away with domestic abuse just because they are good at throwing a ball and Manziel is no different.

The documentary didn’t tell Manziel's story wrong, the problem with “Untold” is that Manziel's story is not one worth attention. 

Manziel shows almost no remorse for his actions that hurt people, he smirks and chuckles as he recounts his college days when he was drinking, doing drugs and dismissing his friends and family who told him to seek help.  

Manziel failed to illustrate the importance of mental health in situations like his. Rather than providing a hopeful story about overcoming mental issues, Manziel tells one of abusing drugs and alcohol while being rich and famous all while proving his lack of regret to those who were affected by his actions.

In the documentary’s first few days of being in the public eye, the conversation has not been around Manziel's mental health but rather how Manziel would never prepare for games in the NFL and how people find it to be incredibly impressive how many times Manziel played good football while being hungover. 

With a story like Manziel's, the conversation should be about the issues that he’s faced in life and how they have affected those around him rather than about how those issues affected his play on the field.

For entertainment purposes, it makes sense to highlight Manziel’s on-field performance. However, this series says that its goal is to do the opposite. 

A story like this should encourage people to open up about addiction and mental health issues. Instead, it has shown people that domestic violence and abusing drugs and alcohol is OK as long as you are rich. 

Manziel's lack of accountability and respect for those he has hurt makes the documentary a true disappointment. The story of mental health in sports should be told not from those who have abused their fame and money but from those who are willing to truly acknowledge and accept why mental health is such a large problem among those with luxuries like being rich and famous. 

Robert is a sophomore studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views expressed in this column do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk to Robert? Tweet him @robertkeegan_

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