Injuries suck. They hurt, they debilitate, and they come back. But I’ve also found that they sure do draw a crowd.
As I watched Robert Griffin III buckle his knee, after so many questions about whether or not he should have played tonight–in what ended up being the Washington Redskins’ season-ending loss–I wonder if we the fans had as much to do with his decision to play as did head coach Mike Shanahan or RG3 himself.
While I don’t think this was the most gruesome injury in sports this year–I think Marcus Lattimore of the South Carolina Gamecocks takes that cake–it was still pretty hard to watch. You can see it on the faces of the fans at the game, hear it in the voices of the commentators: Oh no.
Robert Griffin III is certainly not the first player to ever play hurt, trying to lead his team to greatness. He’s certainly not the first to worsen an injury while playing. But I realized something as I tried not to watch the replays of his knee giving out, but couldn’t stop looking: if he had gone out there, fought through the injury and led his team to victory, that story turns out differently. Playing him may not have been labeled as foolish. He shines once again as this year’s sports darling. Teammates praise him in the press conference afterwards. But that’s not what happened.
I think it boils down to this: we love a hero. Many casual and serious sports fans alike crave that player who puts everything on the line, who risks career-ending injury, just to lead his team. Those are the stories that go down in history, that people talk about for years to come, that immortalize someone in sports greatness. We want to see how it plays out, if he can really pull it off.
But when it doesn’t end well, then come the criticisms. Of course, hindsight is 20/20.
Robert Griffin III seems to me–and most everyone else who knows anything about him–to be a young man of quality character. And there’s no doubt he had a major part in his team’s success this past season. I’m sure he just wanted to do what every athlete dreams of doing: laugh in the face of great risk and win. And he must have known that deep down that’s what most people wanted him to do.
Now that he knows the outcome, now that RG3 fans everywhere know the outcome, I wonder: was it worth it?