Mike Shanahan’s taking a lot of blame (deservedly so) for not pulling the plug on Robert Griffin III yesterday. But was it entirely his fault? Early on, it appeared RG3 was able to be RG3 with roll outs, read options and precision passing. But as the game progressed, he struggled with even the most basic of movements. The numbers tell the story:
1st quarter-6 of 9, 68 yards, 2 TD
rest of game-4-10, 16 yards, 1INT
Ew. Ugly. Even for a rookie in his first playoff game.
But RG3’s a warrior, a tough SOB, a “insert tough athlete machismo mantra here.” Trent Dilfer on SportsCenter this morning: “You’d be hard-pressed to find a football player or football coach in the NFL or college that would say take RG3 out. We understand the difference between pain and injury.”
And therein lies the problem. We’re as much to blame for RG3’s injury as RG3 himself. The media, the talking heads, the coaches, the fans, the kids—it’s on us. We celebrate the heroic performances under physical duress. We idolize athletes who are able to push their bodies to extremes.
Think about it. How many times have you seen this commercial of Michael Jordan’s flu game during the playoffs?
So many of our favorite moments involve athletes going above and beyond. Willis Reed limping onto a court, Kirk Gibson fist-pumping his way around the bases on one leg, Curt Schilling’s bloody sock.
Perhaps my favorite sports memory as a child happened during the 1988 NBA Finals. Isiah Thomas, hobbling on one leg goes bananas on the Lakers during Game 6, scoring 25 points in the third quarter and 43 points for the game. It cemented him as an all-time great.
RG3 was looking for that moment. He was looking for his flu game, his bloody sock, his trot around the bases. Instead, his knee buckled, collapsing under the weight of potential greatness. And we were all there—waiting, watching, and in the end, assigning blame to everyone without first looking at ourselves.