In the pecking order of recent supernovas here, Griffin is now certainly No. 1, followed probably by Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg and Alex Ovechkin, who scored goals while gliding on his back a few years ago and was about the most electric performer the NHL had ever seen.
Ovi is still tremendous, on a Hall of Fame trajectory. But he is also a cautionary tale about falling too deeply in love with a phenom too early.
The same goes for spread-option quarterbacks in the NFL. Remember the two who dominated pregame banter before they were extricated from NFL conversation this December?
In less than a year, Cam Newton went from being Muhammad Ali on an NFL field — putting up 4,000 yards of passing and another 700 of rushing his rookie season — to a churlish second-year quarterback pointing fingers on a bad team. Tim Tebow was a messiah for a god-awful Broncos team — until John Elway forsook him with a trade to the Jets, which these days is as about as close as you can get to Hades.
This unexplained need to erect a statue right now needs to simmer down a while. He can be RGIII or “Rob” or “Griff” a while longer.
No need for Robert Gandhi III, RGesus or Black Jesus — especially after you talk to the original, who a teenage Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then Lew Alcindor) first encountered at Mount Morris Park in Harlem in 1966 for the Rucker League crown. As Monroe parted two busloads of Philadelphia fans, the only sound was a “continuous wail that seemed to be coming from everywhere,” Abdul-Jabbar wrote in his autobiography.
“Where’s Jesus? Black Jesus!” they yelled about the player who could spin 360 degrees in midair before scoring, who was Julius Erving and Michael Jordan before Dr. J and Michael.
“I completely get it,” Monroe said Sunday. “They’ve been looking for something exciting down there for a good, long while. Griffin seems so dedicated to his craft, too. He’s the real deal. He’s got touch, legs. He’s hittin’ guys running quick slants. Hopefully he continues this pace.
“But let’s keep it all in perspective. Back in those days, there were things done people really hadn’t done before. That doesn’t take away from a guy’s legitimacy or greatness now. It’s okay to be enamored by what you see. But, to me, I don’t jump through rings about it because I’ve either seen it or done it myself before.”
For previous columns by Mike Wise, visit washingtonpost.com/wise.