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July 31, 2013

Tarp's Wednesday thoughts: be the adult

-I'm in Destin, Florida after spending a few days at Disneyworld in Orlando on vacation with my family. It's been nice to spend time with my family, just sharing moments that are so fleeting that we don't appreciate them as much as we should until they are gone. They say that the retirement years are the "Golden Years" of your life but I can say that mine are right now because I'll never do anything else that makes me happier than raising my kids.

-In that vein, when Mark Passwaters texted me about the tragic passing of Texas A&M defensive lineman Polo Manukainiu yesterday morning, it was a reminder about how fortunate I was to be able to look over a beautiful beach with the surf coming in and enjoy my daughter putting out plates for breakfast and my son talking to me about some upcoming movies we wanted to see. However, there was also that "shake your head moment" when I saw Polo's tweet about having a 22 hour drive ahead of he and four other people without sleep. I'm still not aware of all of the items surrounding the incident but what would motivate someone to make that kind of a drive under those circumstances?

What's worse, you hear about similar circumstances surrounding groups of younger people who have that sense of immortality that we all are imbued with at that age, that you can do anything with no consequences …but in this instance, one of the five was an adult, the father of one of the other boys. He was responsible for them and he should have known better than to attempt something like that. That's what we're here for, to protect our kids when their life experiences haven't prepared them for those types of situations.

My kids saw my face after I got off the phone with Mark and he told me what details he knew about the accident. I looked at my 14 year old son and asked him to do me a favor, to never drive 22 hours without stopping, and he looked at me as if I were crazy and replied "Why would I do that?".

The 14 year old knew better than the forty year old. The adult was supposed to know better and didn't.

-After going to the beach and pool for most of the the day, I finally got around to reading the Wright Thompson article on Johnny Manziel. I read the responses on the boards and processed the information as best I could and came up with another "shake my head" moment.

- For all of the talk about the "hate" that's come both A&M's and Johnny Manziel's way this summer, Wright Thompson has taken on far more difficult subjects including one involving his alma mater, Ole Miss. He wrote and narrated "Ghosts of Mississippi", one of ESPN's 30 for 30 documentaries about the riots that occurred at Ole Miss in 1962 when James Meredith became the first African American to enroll at the school, how an undefeated football team got caught up in those events, and how the school has changed (for better or worse) since those times. Try topping that for degree of difficultly. In my opinion, yesterday's story was a great read regardless of how uncomfortable you were reading it as an A&M fan or friend of Manziel's.

-Thompson was apparently given unlimited access to Manziel's family and entourage and they spoke freely, especially Johnny's father Paul. You don't provide that kind of access unless you have a story to tell and don't think that it's getting out there. However, be careful of what you wish for because based on what was written Paul Manziel comes across as someone who has issues with almost everyone in his son's life even including himself to a disturbing degree. It doesn't matter if he or other people in the article say they were misquoted or things were taken out of context…the reality is that all of this stuff is now out there, there's no taking it back, and that's what happens when you invite someone into your life to be an advocate for you but isn't vested in you personally.

-Why in the world would the family and friends address all of the items about him that they did? It's interesting that someone complained about A&M leaking information about Johnny's past incidents but Johnny's own family spills far more details about him speaking on the record. The detailed discussion of Johnny's round of golf with his father was excruciating…just say he's competitive to the point of breaking a club and leave it at that. We get the picture. Guys like Manziel are hypercompetitive to the point of ugliness which is often a secret we don't like to address publicly. Nonetheless, it drives them on the field and it's a large part of what makes them successful. It doesn't need to be brought up by your family of all people.

-If you are concerned about his personal well being, then set an example for him. If you think he has a problem with alcohol, don't drink around him yourself.

-If you are concerned about the places he's going and the people that he's seeing, then cut off the means to do so. That's probably easier said than done but it's part of a job of being a parent.

-If you are bothered by A&M and the NCAA looking into your affairs because of your son's lifestyle, understand that whether you like it or not most college athletes can't afford that lifestyle and it's easy to call into question. Better that A&M handle it with a quality compliance department than someone else who really has an axe to grind.

-Texas A&M is making money off of your son. That's the way the system is set up for now. In turn, A&M has provided your son with the means to do so himself one day if he takes care of business with an education, the opportunity to play football at the next level, and publicizing his abilities to capitalize on opportunities off the field when he leaves.

-Kevin Sumlin is a football coach and their shelf lives are short. Just ask a guy like Turner Gill. Don't blame him for getting what he can while he can as he's not too different from the rest of us. In addition, he and his staff did a great job of game management, elevating A&M's talent level, and teaching technique and intensity, especially on the defensive side of the ball. They earned their keep.

-I understand that Johnny Manziel is under unimaginable pressure as is his family because of his on and off the field behavior. This article simply ratcheted that pressure up even further going into a season where expectations have never been higher for Manziel or A&M football. I'm sure that wasn't the intention but it certainly is going to be the result.

-Lost in all of this is the tragic death of three young men, tragic because they were avoidable. They're overshadowed in our world because they weren't Heisman Trophy winners and that's not a shot at Johnny Manziel or his family as much it is at ourselves, our society, and even myself. My condolences to Polo, his family, his teammates, and his friends as well as those of the men that were riding with him. We're sorry for your losses. God be with all of you.

-I'm done. I'm going to go spend time with my family. Go spend time with yours.

And if you're an adult and you have kids, act like one because no one else is going to do it for you.


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