The highlights this morning on ESPN showed all the touchdowns and turnovers last night, and all the magical maneuverings of Robert Griffin III, but ESPN forgot to show what was, for me, the most important play of all in the 17-16 victory over the New York Giants: Alfred Morris twisting and grinding and growling his way up the middle for a first down on 3rd and 3 with a minute left on the clock. That ended it. Dagger, as they say. “The Redskins are going to win,” said the announcer. Every Skins fan knows the alternate outcome: Morris gets stopped and the Skins punt and Eli Manning is given one final chance. True, he’d have, what, 20 seconds left on the clock? But that’s his prime time. He just needed to get his team into field goal range. He would have a chance to throw another flag-football bomb to Victor Cruz, who somehow turns into The Forgotten Man when he runs through the Redskins secondary. Instead, the Skins did what really good teams do, which is keep the really talented offense of the other team standing on the sideline watching helplessly as the clock expires.
RGIII is our marquee player, our new local god, and in addition to being fun, fun, fun to watch he’s a really good guy who says all the right things and seems genuinely modest about his accomplishments. But every great team also needs an AlMo (loved the line by Boswell: Morris “ran like the Giants had insulted everyone he’d ever known”).Morris is Pippen to Griffin’s Jordan, no? And yes, we all love London Fletcher.
So you’re thinking: Oh God, another day of sports talk and belly-scratchin’ and disquisitions by the fellas on the relative merits of PBR and Rolling Rock. What, you’d rather talk about the Fiscal Cliff?
There is nothing to talk about there. So far the two sides have essentially offered what they offered a year and a half ago when they failed to reach a deal. There’s a deal to be had eventually, surely, but it’s not likely to happen in any substantial form until January at the earliest, because the cliff is that marvelous thing, the problem that doubles as a (partial) solution. But we’re not talking about that today! We’re talking about football, and specifically about how the game last night makes us all better people, at least here in Washington (let’s not ask Weingarten about this because his loyalties are elsewhere).
We’re winners now. We’ve got a great baseball team, an exciting football team, and our basketball team is…. Well, we’ve got a great baseball team and an exciting football team. And someday there will be hockey again. The future will be better than the past; the present is pretty darn good. What more can you ask for?
In Stephen Greenblatt’s Pulitzer-winning book “The Swerve,” about an Italian scribe who finds a lost copy of an epic poem by Lucretius and helps kick the Renaissance into gear, the author describes the frustrations of his protagonist, Poggio, as he labors in the Curia. Poggio keeps telling himself that if he grinds away for some number of years, eventually he’ll have enough money to retire and do what he really wants to do, which is hunt for books and immerse himself in the literary life. Greenblatt writes: “The pattern of dreaming and deferral and compromise is an altogether familiar one: it is the epitome of a failed life.” It’s also a description of Washington sports in recent years. “Maybe next year” is something we’ve said repeatedly, usually about one-third of the way through a season.
But perhaps now the dreams are becoming reality, and we must no longer defer our happiness. My calendar suddenly is filled with make-or-break Redskins games: I have a life.
You could argue that athletic accomplishments by other people do not directly reflect upon the fan’s own life in any significant way, and you would be wrong. Spectator sports are collaborative enterprises. Do you think Morris would have made that final first down if we weren’t urging him on in our living rooms? No: Without the fan there is no point to the enterprise. The foundation of football is not the running and passing and kicking and tackling and fumbling and intercepting — it’s the rooting.
And I just want everyone to know that last night I brought my A-game. I left it all out on the field, mentally. When I had to leave the room to get a beverage from the kitchen I hit the pause button on the TV so I wouldn’t miss anything. I manned up. And look what happened.