As RG3 lay on the ground, unable to recover a fumble resulting from a botched snap Sunday evening, the political and sports journalists I follow on Twitter arrived at a unanimous conclusion: Redskins coach Mike Shanahan should have pulled him out of the game sooner.
(In fairness, a lot of people had been saying that since at least half time when it became apparent that Griffin was hobbled.)
Second guessing aside, many were also questioning Shanahan’s motives for not doing the right thing. Everyone seemed to believe Shanahan had needlessly put his star player’s health at risk — all in the pursuit of personal playoff glory.
But while benching RG3 might have seemed obvious to outside observers, a more likely explanation for Shanahan’s decision was this: A yawning chasm exists between those who play and coach football — and the rest of us.
“I would have put in [backup quarterback] Kirk Cousins,” Washington Post NFL reporter Mark Maske said on Tony Kornheiser’s ESPN radio show Monday.
But then he added something really interesting: Of all the players he interviewed in the locker room after the game, “every single one of them was adamant that you could not take him out of that game,” Maske said.
“So the feeling in the locker room,” Maske told Kornheiser, “is very different than the feeling that you and I will have.”
Should we really be shocked to learn that people who get hit by 300 pound men for a living observe a different code than those of us who blog for a living?
In the movie “A Few Good Men,” Tom Cruise’s character explains why Marines stationed at GITMO are different from everyone else: “We have softball games and marching bands,” he avers. “They work at a place where you have to wear camouflage or you might get shot.”
The point is that where you stand on this depends on where you sit.
And the truth is that the media is schizophrenic. As long as nothing catastrophic happens, we heap praise on players who “muscle through” pain — especially the ones who go on to win big games. (Anyone remember Curt Schilling’s bloody sock?)
Of course, you might say, RG3 is different from Schilling and the numerous other tough guys who have played with pain. RG3, after all, is a rookie. As such, Shanahan should have at least protected him for business reasons, if not for moral reasons.
But many observers (including yours truly) also criticized the Washington Nationals for pulling ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg (who was recovering from an arm injury) before the playoffs even started. You can’t have it both ways.
Ultimately, this isn’t about RG3 — or even the media — but instead, about our evolving society. As Ben Domenech writes over at Ricochet, “there’s a deeper question here: do we think these [macho] traits are still laudable? Or should we teach kids that getting injured for a game just isn’t worth it?”
I certainly wouldn’t want my sons sustaining serious injuries for the sake of some silly game (especially if they aren’t being paid millions of dollars to play it.)
At the same time, isn’t there something noble about a warrior mentality — doesn’t a strong nation require young men who lead what Theodore Roosevelt (who, by the way, saved football) called the “strenuous life”?
There are two sides to this debate.