Monday, January 7, 2013

Monday's Musings on Sports - Woe is the Knee of RG III in DC

Yesterday afternoon Wild Card weekend concluded with a game between the Washington Redskins and the Seattle Seahawks. The game was slated for 4:30 PM on Sunday which meant that it was the game that the networks thought would be the most watched of the four played this weekend. There was good logic behind this, because the game featured the two teams with the (combined) best records but that was only part of the draw. The matchup also presented two rookie quarterbacks who had outplayed their expectations and had brought a sense of electricity to franchises which had missed the playoffs the year before.

Although I did not have an opportunity to watch most of the three other games which were played this past weekend, the snippets which I caught and the news summaries made it clear that they were not great games. I heard a great sound bite from Mike Greenberg who quipped that since he is a Jets fan he knows bad football and the Saturday games were bad football (I believe he also said that they were unwatchable, but that has to be an exaggeration since no playoff game can be truly unwatchable).

The early game on Sunday between Indianapolis and Baltimore had elements of drama of its own since it featured yet another rookie QB (Andrew Luck) on one side and a player who was coming back from injury but announced that he would be retiring after the season (Ray Lewis) on the other side. Still, it really was not much of a game as the Ravens defense confused and stymied Luck.
The late game presented all of the drama and was the one game that I really wanted to watch. The Redskins were a team which came back from a 3-6 start and passed the Dallas Cowboys and NY Giants to finish first in the NFC East. They had two superstar rookies - Alfred Morris and Robert Griffin III. On the other side was the beast of the NFC West - the Seattle Seahawks. This team took on the persona of Marshawn Lynch and just refused to go down. They had manhandled the NFC West leading San Francisco 49ers a few weeks before, but because of some early season losses the Hawks only qualified for a wild card.
When the game first started, the Redskins were on fire and they scored two early touchdowns to go up 14-0. But then the Skins started to falter, as did Robert Griffin III's knee. Griffin had been injured earlier in the season, but after sitting out a few games he was able to return and he took the Skins into the playoffs. During the week, pundits had debated whether RG III was at 75% and if his knee brace was hindering his movement. But as the game wore on, it became painfully obvious to those watching that Griffin's knee was causing him pain and he was unable to plant. Mercifully, Coach Shanahan eventually removed Griffin, but it was too late to save the game for the Skins. More importantly, his MRI the following day showed that he had some new tears in his ACL and LCL.
The decision to play Griffin in the playoffs, despite the fact that he was less than 100% made me think of another DC area player - Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg was a star pitcher for the Washington Nationals who was a dominant force for most of the season, despite the fact that he was coming off Tommy John surgery.
Towards the end of the season, the Nationals shut Strasburg down for his own good when he reached the Nationals' limit of the number innings that they felt were healthy for his arm. This decision was publicly criticized throughout baseball. The Nationals were in the playoffs for the first time in team history and had the chance to reach the World Series, but they refused to play Strasburg for fear that too many innings would damage his arm. Although Strasburg himself probably begged for the opportunity to pitch, the Nationals would not put him on their post season roster and they did not advance in the playoffs. In contrast, Griffin was not 100% but the Redskins allowed him to decide whether he was OK to play. Depending on the results of his forthcoming knee surgery, the Skins may regret the decision to play their franchise QB for a decade.
The decision to follow the advice of their young player made me think of another controversial decision from last week's parsha. Amram was the gadol hador - the great Rabbinical leader of the generation. When he heard that Pharaoh had ordered that all Jewish baby boys be drowned, he decided to separate from his wife so that they would have no other children. As discussed in the gemara, Amram's five year old daughter Miriam took him to task for his decision and said to him - you are worse than Pharaoh as he only decreed on the boys, but you are preventing all children from being born. Although Amram was a great leader, he listened to his five year old daughter and took his wife Yocheved back.
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