While the Super Bowl was playing out Sunday between a wily veteran quarterback and a talented up-and-coming signal-caller, nearly lost in the hype was news that another NFL QB was entering rehab after nearly playing himself out of a promising career with erratic behavior.
Barely 22, it appears Johnny Rehab already has a lengthy record of problem drinking, often to deal with stress and anger issues, according to his own father.
One can only hope that Manziel gets the help he needs. Whether he succeeds as a pro football star is very secondary to an opportunity to succeed in living.
Some athletes and celebrities provide an example for young people to learn from, via their determination and character. Others, unfortunately, are little more than human teachable moments due to their own weaknesses, misbehaviors and squandering of talent.
Manziel, at least, may have come to realize he has a problem fairly early in the game, a step that many habitual substance abusers never reach in a lifetime.
If a Heisman-trophy-winning, multi-millionaire, first-round draftee athlete needs to stop drinking to get his life back on track, maybe it should be pause for thought.
Here's the thing that we have miserably failed to teach young people, I think.
In a world where most problems are beyond your control, drinking is one problem you can simply choose not to have.
You know what I mean. You can lead an exemplary life - eat right, exercise and never touch a cigarette - and still be diagnosed with lung cancer. You can be victimized or abandoned by people around you. You can suffer disability in any one of many forms, no fault of your own. A stray bullet in a drive by, a random twist of a funnel cloud, fate in a myriad of forms can turn a life upside down. Problems you don't cause yourself, didn't ask for.
Life will provide you setbacks enough, count on it. Addictions - alcohol, illegal drugs, tobacco - are ones you can choose not to have.
Some will cry that they are predestined to such behaviors, because they have addictive personalities or whatever the latest psychological buzzword self-excuse is, or because they blame their parents for their behavior. But the truth is, you can choose not to be an alcoholic, by choosing not to start. It is a choice, and it's all yours.
Any of us who have children who have been busted at a beer party know the standard line. "Everybody is doing it." But when did we raise our kids to be everybody?
Social behavior in our country is built around drinking (ask any liquor store if their sales go up during Super Bowl time) and to a lesser extent, drugs. But it is your choice who you hang around with, and when you say no. A 50 cent can of Dew can save you a buttload of fine and high-risk insurance payments, I'm just saying.
For some odd reason, no one in this country seems willing to say that you can choose not to drink - maybe because American is sponsored by Anheiser-Busch and Captain Morgan.
Drinking to excess isn't just tolerated, it's celebrated. It's cute to be a tipsy or high teenager, apparently. They're fun and popular. Or at least they are until there is a teenage pregnancy, or a car wrapped around a tree.
Only when that person grows up to be a chronic middle aged drunk, half sick and slurred and a danger to themselves and others, do we get disgusted with it. Kind of a mixed message we're sending, isn't it?
At halftime of the Super Bowl, there was a great commercial about youth heroin addiction.
That's pretty easy, we can all agree that heroin is horrible. But at the same time, seven Super Bowl commercials by my count promoted beer drinking - and it is that few only because Budweiser purchased exclusive alcohol advertising rights for the broadcast.
Now, beer and heroin are a far cry apart, to be sure. But ask Storm Lake Police which contributes more to crime and tragedy in our town. I'd be willing to bet you that alcohol abuse contributes to three out of four domestic abuse incidents, assaults, and other key crimes.
An alcohol manufacturer is spending $4.5 million or more a pop for thirty seconds of Super Bowl ad time, and they aren't in the business of losing money, so you know those ads are effective in getting new people to drink, or current customers to drink more.
I'm not sure anybody is telling kids they don't have to. The message we have sought to teach is "responsible drinking" - that is, go ahead and get as drunk as you want as often as you can, and it's all fine as long as somebody else drives you home.
And then, somehow, we are shocked when a young athlete or musician winds up in rehab barely into their 20s.
This is not to say that everyone who drinks is an alcoholic, or everyone who has used weed is a drug addict. Some have better ability than others to know their limits and manage their consumption - or at least they manage not to overtly hurt themselves or others while under the influence.
The Johnny Manziels of the world have expensive rehab clinics to cater to them when the fun starts to crumble. Who is going to reclaim a Storm Lake kid when their grades and family relationships start to suffer, or will we not take note unless or until their career, family and health are eventually jeopardized?
I'm not one of those in favor of banning alcohol ads, even during the Super Bowl. But I am in favor of being smart enough to know what they are really selling you, and what the risks are.
A $5 million ad putting a dude into a human Pac Man game, to encourage more drinking? Geez. Are we really that easy?