(Thought I'd share a story from my time interning with the Redskins).
Robert Griffin III nailed another Press Conference Monday (8/6). “Good job guys!” he told reporters, signing off a la Bill Simmons.
Maybe the young quarterback wasn't familiar with the popular sportswriter’s token salutation; maybe he just has a similarly gracious sense of humor.
Descending the podium, Griffin III walked a few yards over and sat down on a bench where his fiancé had been patiently waiting. The two talked quietly, a few yards behind a large brigade of the fourth estate: reporters, bloggers, video and photo camera men, NFL Network anchors, and Redskins PR and broadcast staff (and their interns).
Like the majority of the people milling around on the porch between the practice fields and the facility, I was waiting for Coach Mike Shanahan to give his daily press conference. We had to wait about five or ten minutes. While we all waited, Griffin and his fiancé continued their quiet conversation. Tired of standing on my feet (for dozens of minutes), I took a seat on the bench across from the couple. It was the only one of the benches that had room. I recognized that my proximity to the couple might be intrusive, so I sat down facing the opposite direction as them.
I admittedly stole a quick glance at the team’s quarterback and his fiancé before sitting.
The peculiarity of the situation became immediately apparent. From where I was sitting, I could see nearly everyone’s eyes. And everyone - the gaggle of reporters; the network camera men; the PR staff and my superiors in the video department; a handful of other friends and family members of other players; and, of course, the AP photographer standing directly in front of me – everyone – was either looking over my shoulder or trying hard not to look. I couldn’t help but notice each and every time someone looked past me, no doubt for a glimpse of the new Face of the Franchise talking with his soon-to-be wife. Whether they were typing on their phones, engaged in small talk with their neighbor, or staring down at their feet, it was obvious where at least a plurality of everyone’s attention lied.
Outside of a couple of innocent little children, we all looked, once or twice every minute or so. Yes, I admit, like Orpheus in Hades, I was human and, against my better instincts, looked over my shoulder for fleeting moments. Not rudely. Not all at once. We would look somewhere inconspicuous first – at the door to see if Coach was coming; or at someone closer by the couple; or at the AP photographer a few arm lengths in front of their bench. Sooner or later, however, swiftly but surely, we would drag our line of sight across the young, newly famous couples’ conversation.
Given who and where they were, it really wasn’t all that surprising that people looked. Really, it was remarkable how much we managed to refrain.
It was as if we all tactility agreed that the young QB and his fiancé deserved a private moment to themselves, even - or, especially outside of the facility where he works every day. I honestly think that more of us would have looked in that direction more often if it were just Griffin III, or if it were just the young lady, sitting on the bench by themselves.
Yes, the AP photographer in front of me – who was obviously there to capture such a moment – took a snapshot or two of the young couple. But not many; no more than three.
He might have seen mine, and maybe a few other critical glares sent his way, because he stopped shooting after only a few seconds. He dropped his hands into his pockets and allowed his bulky camera to hang down from his neck. He turned away from them, toward the podium. In short: he fell in line with the rest of us, trying our very best not to look over, not to wonder more than we ought. The unspoken sentiment among us was both simple and powerful. We all truly appreciated the ten-plus minutes of honest, thoughtful reflection Griffin had just provided us from the podium. More than that, we were thankful that this astounding young man would be around these parts for a long time to come, getting to know a good number of us and always remaining unfettered and himself.