This incredibly stupid column, which was written by Maureen Dowd and published in Sunday's edition of The New York Times, and which compares rookie Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III to President Barack Obama, does not prove that sports and politics should never mix. It just demonstrates the worst possible way to mix them—by mashing one ubiquitous topic into another, wholly unrelated one, like a hack editorial cartoonist. (Going shopping for Black Friday, Mr. President? Not before you deal with this turkey carcass labeled "BUDGET DEFICIT.")
So Maureen Dowd has noticed that everyone in Washington is excited about RGIII. This is true! He is a tremendous football player, and Redskins fans can't stop talking about him. His coach compared him to Cool Hand Luke, a movie character played by Paul Newman 45 years ago. Fine. Old movie references are Maureen Dowd's Alphaville and Omega Man.
But this particular old movie reference reminded Dowd of the president. Barack Obama, she writes, has been compared to the same Paul Newman character. Has he? He has. One time, anyway.
Mostly, though, Dowd understands that RGIII is currently a Thing To Talk About, which means he gives her a new seat from which to razz the president. Griffin is an "electrifying rookie," and so was Obama, before he was president for a full term and disappointed everyone and got 64.6 million people to re-elect him. But four years is the blink of an eye to a committed nostalgist, so it's time to compare the two rookies head to head:
While Obama has developed an unnerving and enervating pattern of going into a prewin slump—as in New Hampshire and Texas in the 2008 primaries or the first debate with Mitt Romney—RGIII never allows his batteries to run down while he's playing. His parents were Army sergeants—he was born in Okinawa, Japan, and his father served in Iraq - who imbued their son with the ethos of hard work and discipline. The only time Griffin drooped was when he got a concussion in the game against Atlanta.
While Obama prefers to preen as the man alone in the arena—keeping other pols at a distance on stage, parsimoniously handing out thanks and failing to mention his party or top surrogate Bill Clinton in his last victory speech—RGIII never passes up a chance to share credit.
While Obama—who has had a failure to communicate—finds media a bother, Griffin has an easy charm with the press. He never shows aggrievement.
While Obama gets tangled up in his head—trying to decide if he's too noble to play politics or if spending some evenings schmoozing with pols and flattering them to further his agenda will leave him too depleted—RGIII keeps the joy, intensity and bonhomie in his game.
Except for that concussion he got playing pro football, nothing has thwarted RGIII in the not-quite two-thirds of a season he's been playing pro football. Why can't Obama copy his friendly attitude and never-say-die positivity, and actually get something accomplished?
Wait, what's that you say, D.C. Sports Bog?
This is the 6th time in the last 12 seasons the Skins have been 5-6 through 11 games.— Dan Steinberg (@dcsportsbog) November 26, 2012
Now maybe there's the beginning of a sports-and-politics metaphor that could go somewhere. But the specific results are beside the point for Dowd. RGIII's name could be swapped out for that of any other currently popular young athlete. Why can't Obama cover the ground between left and right as easily as Mike Trout does? When will Obama ever find a workable balance with Congress, the way Kevin Durant shares the ball with Russell Westbrook? Ten years ago, Dowd could have asked why George W. Bush lacked the quickness and adaptability of Mike Vick (Daddy issues, she would have answered). The Washington D.C. in opinion columnists' heads is high school, and as far as the mean senior girl is concerned, the quarterback is there is to put the SGA president in his place.