These were not the mutterings of an alcohol-fueled Redskins fan, singing a slurred tribute to the team’s rookie sensation, Robert Griffin III, following his record-setting performance Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. The sounds emerged from my 18-month-old son Cayden, fueled by memories of a randomly gracious interaction with RGIII a few days earlier.
It happened at a clothing store in Leesburg, after I decided that two shirts I had paid for were the wrong size. A clerk told me that only the manager could make the exchange, but she had stepped out. Miffed, I asked if I could come back in an hour to claim the shirts after keeping an appointment nearby. I was told they would be ready.
When I returned, the shirts still weren’t ready and the manager still wasn’t there. I was already running late to pick up Cayden from day care. In expressing my dismay, I acted like a bit of a jerk. I asked if the shirts would be ready if I came back in 20 minutes after picking up my son. They said they hoped so. During that discussion, I happened to overhear an employee mention that RGIII would soon be stopping by to sort out a clothing purchase of his own.
When I returned to the store, Cayden in my arms, I noticed a wisp of exhilaration. Employees huddled around the main check-out area because nearby stood RGIII, standing quietly and browsing through a collection of clothes.
My shirts were still not ready. The manager said she would tend to them in a minute, after she took a picture. It was clearly to be of RGIII. Feeling toddler-pressured, I became more of a jerk.
“Excuse me, but I’ve been waiting for an hour and a half, and I would like to get this settled,” I said, forcefully.
The manager hesitated, then told me she would help me. The picture of RGIII would have to wait.
As a journalist, I have interviewed many famous athletes, including some former Redskins. About 20 years ago, I hosted a Redskins radio show while I was editor of a local sports magazine. Once, I played a “skins” golf game with Redskins players Russ Grimm, Don Warren and Ken Whisenhunt at a local course. Celebrity no longer moves me.
In the clothing store, I viewed RGIII simply as an impressive young man who, through no fault of his own, was indirectly responsible for the stalled progress toward the resolution of my purchase. RGIII could have been President Obama, and I probably would have acted the same way.
Still, I didn’t really mean to inconvenience RGIII. Moments after I asserted my position, I said to him, “Thanks for your patience; I hope it’s not an inconvenience for you.”
“Not a problem,” he said, smiling.
Cayden’s cuteness then helped diffuse any further friction.
“Mine, mine,” he said, pointing to something on the counter.
“More, more,” he muttered, at nothing in particular.
“Mine, mine,” he said again, pointing back to the counter.
I heard RGIII laugh. He had moved closer, and I pounced on the opportunity.
“Would you mind signing an autograph for Cayden?” I said.
“Sure, not a problem,” he said.
I thanked him and planned to leave it there. But a store clerk then asked if I wanted a picture with RGIII. “Thanks, but, no. I don’t want to inconvenience him any further,” I said.
“No, that’s fine,” RGIII said, radiating relaxation.
Griffin’s good-natured display won me over. Once an avid Redskins fan, I have been indifferent to the team of late. But RGIII’s performance last week, first at the store and then against the Saints, has convinced me to pay more attention to the team.
I plan to mount the autograph and picture in a frame and present it to Cayden when he’s older. By that time, RGIII may have established himself as a Pro Bowl-caliber and Super Bowl-winning quarterback. I hope Cayden will accept him as a role model.
RGIII seems to have already made a lasting impression on Cayden. While watching his pro debut Sunday on television, I told him, “Look, there’s RGIII.”
“Ar-Dee-Dee,” he responded, looking wide-eyed at the television.
About an hour after RGIII led the Redskins to the win, I pushed Cayden along in his stroller as I skated on the Washington and Old Dominion Trail. For a few minutes he was silent as we rolled along the smoothly paved surface in the late-afternoon breeze.
Cayden broke the silence.
“Ar-Eee-Eee,” he said.
I knew what he meant. It was hard to get RGIII out of our minds.
Dave Ungrady is a Leesburg writer.