We laugh because it's funny. And also because we are callous.
We laugh because, come on, Johnny Manziel in a blonde wig? In Vegas? After sending out that ridiculous selfie of him and his dog, just hangin' out at home? How transparent, pathetic, and, yes, laughable was that attempt to cover his tracks?
We laugh because it's funny.
And also because we're callous.
Social media and its capacity for instantly holding anyone, anywhere, up to ridicule has hardened us, has encouraged us to laugh when we know we shouldn't. Because right before our eyes, a young man is unraveling. He is throwing away a life of which children dream in their backyards every day. And he clearly, obviously, cannot help doing so.
That's the obvious lesson you draw from his latest escapade, that apparent crazy-train trip to Vegas and the disappearing act that followed. It was game day, and no one in the Cleveland Browns organization knew where the quarterback to whom the coaching staff had publicly (and seemingly finally) tied its future was AWOL. Didn't show up for his 9 a.m. concussion protocol meeting, didn't call, didn't answer when others called him.
Then came the whole Was That Johnny In A Wig In Vegas? thing, and we laughed. You couldn't help it. You also couldn't help knowing it was as clear a cry for help as you're ever going to hear.
We laugh, but there is nothing funny about watching Johnny let the air out of his Football. There is nothing funny about seeing him dismantle the dream brick by brick in real time. He'd scrambled for a club-record 108 yards against Kansas City, and the Browns staff had said he would start the team's last four games, and this was his chance, his pretty clearly last chance. And he went out of his way to dynamite it.
This is not what a young man does when he's in control of his life. Not even when he's as irresponsible and immature as Manziel is.
It's an old truism that before you can really ask for help you have to hit rock bottom, and the ugly truth here is that Manziel has a ways to fall yet. Maybe if the Browns cut loose, that process will finally reach its inevitable conclusion. Maybe it won't happen until the phone stops ringing -- and, unfortunately for Manziel, his phone will probably keep ringing for awhile. In a league that chews up quarterbacks the way a mastiff chews up a rawhide bone, any port in a storm will do.
Even one that so clearly, and helplessly, prefers the storm to the port.