Told that was a lot to ask given their ages and their respective franchises struggles, Wall replied, “Naw, we’re up to it. We gotta do it — who else if not us?”
Maybe that’s the problem: The kids get tasked with the jobs the adults failed to do. You don’t get drafted by a Washington sports franchise as much you get anointed.
Sometimes I don’t think we have Pro Bowl quarterbacks, star point guards and all-star right-handers in Washington as much as sacrificial lambs to atone for what hell hath come before them. Or at least sacrificial limbs, because after the exhilaration, that’s what Robert Griffin III, Wall and youngsters such as Stephen Strasburg keep donating: the use of their tendons and ligaments until they have to be either replaced, totally reconstructed or need half a season to heal.
As Griffin convalesces after surgery, he figuratively hands the young-gun baton off to Wall, who Saturday night is supposed to suit up for the Wizards for the first time this season after a stress injury to his left patella kept him out the first 33 games. Soon, a more-than-rested Strasburg will take a mound in Florida to test his golden, if rusty, right arm.
When Strasburg made his 14-strikeout debut in 2010, when Griffin sent New Orleans into a tizzy with two touchdown passes last September, hosannas ensued, a literal outpouring of do-you-believe-how-good-this-kid-is euphoria. And then the other shoe dropped, where we were forced to realize how fragile that package is, that moment of, “Oh my God, he’s hurt. So it’s true: He is of this earth.”
Whether we bubble-wrap them or throw them to the wolves, they all eventually wind up on the injured list, trying to do too much for the teams that weren’t very good before they got there.
The disastrous end of a rookie quarterback’s first playoff game in Washington featured so many disturbing images this past week. Griffin’s knee violently twisting, surgeon James Andrews’s backpedaling, Mike Shanahan obfuscating.
But the one that really gave me pause, in hindsight, was the familiar chant that rose up on the south side of FedEx Field, in the stands near the end zone.
When Griffin went down and the doctors were summoned to the patch of dirt where his right knee exploded, the stadium went dead quiet. Nervous seconds passed until the silence was broken by one solemn voice — and then another. And then another.
“R-G-III, R-G-III,” they whispered, before 85,000 joined in and the refrain grew louder, more ominous.
For the first time, Griffin’s initials were not chanted because he had romped for a touchdown or the public-address announcer had howled his name to the heavens as pyrotechnics went off.