Looking Forward

I wish I could be more surprised about what happened to RG3.

If football news isn’t usually your thing, let me explain. RG3 is the headline writer’s favorite nickname for Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins.(We all love a cute abbreviation in this business, especially one that rhymes). Griffin’s been maybe the best rookie quarterback of the season, and a big reason why Washington made the NFL playoffs at all.

And now he’s broken. Maybe badly enough to miss next year entirely.

Why? Because he played hurt in the team’s only playoff game. And got hurt even worse.

There’s been a lot of recriminations by fans. Not aimed at Griffin himself, of course; he’s a young man with the judgment and inexperience of many young men, and given a chance to play, he’ll play. No, the growling’s been saved for the team’s coach, for its doctor, for anyone who actually let him. “Sacrifice your future for the chance to win one game? Sure!”

But again, why is anyone surprised?

If Washington, D.C. has shown a gift for anything, it’s burning long-term needs for short-term gain.

Too cynical? Consider this.

We just went through a stunningly negative election with enough bad feeling to go around. Why? Because it works. Never mind if it further deepens distrust of the nation’s leaders (in 2011, 89 percent of Americans said they didn’t trust government to do the right thing), so long as it gains your candidate or party an edge now. Right?

Heck, you don’t even have to wait for an election. Just watch the fiscal cliff debates. Or maybe the budget ceiling talks. Or any of the key long-term decisions that get turned into an excuse for political games of “chicken.” So long as you look good to the folks back home, a solution doesn’t matter much, right? Especially if, deep down, you don’t believe one is possible in the first place.

And that’s the saddest thing of all, whether you’re talking football or politics. At a base level, these are decisions of despair. In a real sense, it’s giving up on the future to say that tomorrow’s consequences don’t matter if you don’t win today.

No wonder zombie apocalypses and “The Hunger Games” are so popular now.

Now, I’m not arguing to obsessively worry about the future, either. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” the old verse goes; don’t worry too much about tomorrow because today has enough trouble of its own. I understand that. I even try to remember that.

But there’s a balance. If you’re smart, you don’t blow the kids’ college savings on a trip to Hawaii. You plan, to the limits of your resources and ability. You think about consequences because otherwise consequences think about you.

It’s something both coaches and congressmen would do well to remember.

The sad thing is, there’s an excellent example of how to do it right – and it’s also out of Washington. Last season, the Washington Nationals had a hot young pitcher, Stephen Strasburg, come back to them after surgery and a year of rehabilitation. When he came back in 2012, the team set an innings limit for Strasburg to protect his recovery. This far and no further.

It meant Strasburg sat down in September in the middle of a hot pennant race. It meant he couldn’t help his team in the playoffs.

But it also meant he may be around to help his team for a long time to come.

We could use some more of that thinking. Starting at ground level. If fans or voters want a longer view in the arenas they care about, there are ways to reflect that. Few enough votes, few enough ticket sales, can drive home the point that ignoring the future has consequences now.

And if we stick to our guns, the ones who think otherwise may not have much future at all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.