Here's the reason we obsess over RG3, Tiger, Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel
They're no longer relevant in their sports, so as sports fans, why do we care?
The most pressing questions surrounding Robert Griffin III's latest setback isn't when exactly he'll return to the field, or whether or not his career has finally ground to an unfortunate halt.
The most pressing question is: Why do we even remotely care?
The RG3 halcyon days are long, long gone. He hasn't been a relevant football player -- you know, in that game that's supposed to be the ultimate meritocracy -- since his dazzling rookie season in Washington. That was four years ago. He hasn't been good since. He didn't even play last season, not a single, solitary snap.
And it's not as if the Cleveland Browns, a football team that hasn't tasted playoff football since 2002, are some kind of prime-time, must-cover organization that begs for our eyeballs and our precious time.
Nope. Something strange is going on here, something about our sports -- and about ourselves -- that makes RG3 more of a gawker's dream than a sports fan's infatuation. He's more car wreck than captivating QB, more celebrity train wreck than compelling athletic storyline.
And he's just the tip of this iceberg.
Tim Tebow. Johnny Manziel. Tiger Woods. We are surrounded by storylines and headlines and conversations and media obsessions with a handful of guys who can't miss as click bait, even if they can't do a single thing in a sports sense to actually deserve it.
We have surrounded ourselves with a need to capture every movement, moment and possible point of hype surrounding these celebrity-sort-of-athletes. We in the media, on the whole, don't tend to write if you don't click. That's the main truth in 2016 sports coverage.
You did this. I did this. We did this.
There's a lot going on here, including the fact that lost promise -- and, more so, the notion of that lost promise being somehow reclaimed -- is one of the most seductive notions of being human.
Tiger Woods, a broken golfer still clinging to 14 majors and a game where 50-year-olds can beat back age, certainly has a stunning professional resume. His failures are not that of an entire professional career -- they're that of a remarkable career that fell short of being the greatest of all time.
He, at least, has earned our awe. While he hasn't played a competitive round of golf in 1,138 days, our fixation on him can still be attributed to real accomplishments and a legitimate belief we may catch a glimpse of them once again.
You can barely say that for RG3, and you really shouldn't at all for Tebow or Manziel. Tebow hasn't played a single NFL football game -- not one down -- since 2012, the year RG3 was a blazingly great rookie. He's now a baseball player, kind of, but only if it doesn't interfere with his television work.
So, yeah, not exactly Tom Brady here.
Tebow was once a great, even all-time great, college quarterback. But sports don't do yesterdays; they do what-you-got-for-me-next? That makes Tebow less an athlete and more just famous -- Paris Hilton and Kardashian style -- for being famous.
As is Manziel.
Booze, good times, girls, accusations, parties, Vegas, drugs, rappers -- to rehab or not to rehab, that is the question! -- it's all a swirl of the hoped-for swallowed by the tawdry. Manziel, who has real talent but too many demons for that to have yet mattered, is the TMZ-ification of sports manifested.
That's the other part of this, the part of the spectrum that makes Tebow (virgin!), RG3 (failure!) and Tiger (Perkins!) painted with a brush of our baser instincts that pulls our attention toward them.
We pretend we want our sports to be about sports (this is especially for all of you pretending the NCAA's response to North Carolina's discriminatory law, or reports about domestic violence by stars or rape accusations against athletes don't belong here). That's a lie. Our Manziel obsession, our Tebow obsession, our RG3 fixation, even our lust for Tiger topics and jokes about his one-time raucous sex life -- it has very little to do with sports.
It has almost everything to do about celebrity, escapism, the joy of seeing our greats fail (and, if it happens, resurrect themselves), and the very real need to believe such luminaries are, deep down just like us. Right down to the tawdry and terrible.
Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time, and he's in the midst of a four-game suspension. Kevin Durant is about to open up a season as a Golden State Warrior. The Cubs might -- not holding my breath here -- just might win a world series. Nick Saban has Alabama mean and lean and formidable again.
All across our sports, there are so many incredibly compelling things going on. And yet Tim Tebow, Johnny Manziel, Tiger Woods and now RG3 -- all has-beens -- rise to the top of our clicks, our conversations, our thoughts and our focus.
Too often, we focus on the failures more than the successes, the ugliness more than the beauty, the bad news more than the good.
Of course, who am I to judge? I just wrote 880 words on four athletes who haven't mattered in a very long time.
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