Robert Griffin III gets up
The NFL remains as craven and shame-resistant and self-satirizing and multiply objectionable as ever. It has been a long and ugly offseason, and it’s not over yet. The team that employs Griffin remains one of the NFL’s less lovable sub-enterprises, gouging fans without shame and spending millions to spin its slur of Cheap Nike Ravens Jerseys into some sort of denatured aspirational brand. All bad, all oppressive and present and not necessarily going anywhere.
But on the other hand: Robert Griffin III, throwing passes and cutting and being himself on a football field.
Griffin’s on-field truth doesn’t excuse or cancel any of Nike Camo Jerseys and synergistic pettifoggery of the bigger enterprise, of course. If anything, the contrast his brilliance creates is a reminder of just what this transaction is. Football and Robert Griffin III are captivating and alive and strange; there is nothing really like it. The NFL is an alternately pompous and crass business enterprise leveraged and re-leveraged on all that, and Griffin’s team is a particularly hideous remora riding that leviathan, mumbling something about pride. That is, the NFL and its Washington franchise are disconcertingly like a disconcertingly large number of things in our culture at the moment.
Forget his numbers and awards and measurables and intangibles, and consider that in this ghoulish, shameless, self-satirizing league, on this drearily emblematic team, the likelihood of Griffin getting back under center nearly gets us back to even. That’s what he does, and what he means, and what he’s worth. Hate his team all you like, disdain the league and its smug evasions and idiot appropriations and appalling corporate callousness. What Robert Griffin III does, and what a few other players do, is the reason why any of this can exist. Without what he does, the league’s a loud pile of brands and money in a too-expensive suit, a very expensive corpse. He’s the life in it.
So: Griffin’s knee went in its MC Escher-ian direction and the game ended. The drunks went back into the parking lot or just went home, and we went down into the locker rooms. I saw Trent Williams, as wide as a sedan and near tears, not-quite answer some questions about why he punched Richard Sherman. I saw Snyder, with the anti-gravitas of me on my Bar Mitzvah day, pacing the training room in Cheap NFL Jerseys Online and a yellow Redskins hat. A whole glacial moraine of hairy-bellied linemen getting dressed in silence.
In a corner, the tight end Logan Paulsen was shocked and slumped at his locker. “I just wanted to get over to him and make sure he didn’t try to stand up,” he said when asked why he rushed to Griffin’s side after that last knee-buckle. “Because he always tries to do that.”
And then Griffin came out, still in his pads, and sat at his locker for a long time. Later, he’d follow Mike Shanahan — clipped, Air Force-y diction from a tight orange face — and London Fletcher at the podium in the media room. Griffin was almost certainly either in agonizing pain or aloft on an opioid cloud, but he handled questions with grace. No, he wouldn’t have been out there if he hadn’t thought he could play. Yes, trainers had said he could go. (This part wound up being more complicated.) The destroyed field? “That’s just part of our home field advantage,” he joked. He was defiant and poised and then he left, to go home and get his knee rebuilt.
But before that, my co-writer saw something that I didn’t. I didn’t look at Griffin, after a while, as he sat at his locker, because he seemed to need privacy. I saw him begin to remove the mile or so of tape on his body and looked away; anyway, he wasn’t taking questions. But my friend swears he saw this — that Griffin unrolled some black tape from around his wrist and balled it up, then casually threw it into a garbage can halfway across the room.
No one but my friend saw him do this. No one but my friend can confirm that Griffin then looked at him, from the depths of wherever he was, and winked. But for all the silly, stupid, often actively ugly implausibilities that the NFL and its branded myth asks you to believe, ask yourself whether you can believe that Griffin did that. Ask whether anything else about the NFL is half as convincing.