Whether you're a Redskin fan or root for another pro football team, it's hard not to like Robert Griffin III. RGIII has shown rare skill, poise and moxie in leading the Redskins to four straight wins, including a come-from-behind victory on Sunday over the Baltimore Ravens in which the 'Skins rookie quarterback battled through a painful knee injury.
And the buzz isn't just about winning a Super Bowl. I've heard calls for RGIII to run for mayor of our Nation's Capital. Griffin as fiscal cliff mediator. Even RGIII for president (once he reaches the ripe old age of 35)! The sky's the limit for anyone who can even get Democrats and Republicans to agree on something.
As if this twenty-two-year old didn't already have enough on his young shoulders, I'm ready to anoint him with an even weightier title... role model for our teens.
The debate about whether professional athletes should be role models for kids has been raging for decades, especially after basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley once proclaimed that athletes aren't role models. I've always sided with those who agree with Barkley, not because I think athletes can't inspire us, but because I don't want to risk the disappointment that always ensues when one of my kid's sports heroes fails to live up to expectations. (Say it ain't so, Lance!) Still, I've always thought, wouldn't it be great if a sports star combined world-class athleticism with brains, class and -- dare I dream -- values-instilled humility?
Impossible you say?
Perhaps it was, until RGIII landed on the scene.
I got my first glimpse of how special the star quarterback might be when my family and I had the good fortune of attending the Redskins-Cowboys game in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day. Apart from being blown away by RGIII's game performance, my sons and I were most impressed by his attitude and demeanor during post-game interviews.
I asked my 14 and 12-year old sons what they most liked about Griffin. Among their comments were:
• "He's so humble."
• "He's respectful of others. Look how patiently he answers questions from all the reporters."
• "He always tries his best and never gives up."
(I've been trying to instill that never-give-up attitude in my kids for years. Funny how it resonates more strongly when it comes from a pro football star than from their dad!)
We did a little more reading up on RGIII to see if all the hype is real. His parents, both retired Army sergeants, brought young Robert and his sisters up in a home that was disciplined but supportive, steeped in the best values that they, their religious faith and the Army had to offer. As reported by Rich Campbell in a recent article for the Washington Times, the Griffins emphasized values such as humility, kindness, mindfulness of others, and the importance of family.
So when it comes to the question of whether athletes are appropriate role models for teens, RGIII could be a game changer. As good a football player as Griffin is, his greatest impact might just come off the field. Griffin's potential to inspire young people to get a solid education, become good citizens and follow their dreams is as unlimited as his ability to shake off defensive ends and throw a 60-yard touchdown bomb.
I'm admittedly nervous about building up my sons' expectations around one person, but after hearing their own impromptu words of admiration for RGIII, I see that -- planned or not -- Griffin has already become their role model. If that's the case, I don't think my sons could've chosen a better sports or media star to look up to.
John McCormick and his sons William and Connor are the authors of "Dad, Tell Me A Story," How to Revive the Tradition of Storytelling with Your Children (Nicasio Press 2010). For more information about family storytelling, visit the authors' website and blog at http://DadTellMeAStory.com.
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