Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Robert Griffin III, Derrick Rose and why Marketing Recovery is a Dangerous Setup

Reading Howard Bryant’s piece on Robert Griffin III and the negative effects of marketing his recovery, I thought about Derrick Rose and why RG3’s play is a strong reminder he did the right thing. And also the nature of our times where everything is marketable no matter if it’s sound or not.

Seeing RG3 struggle is exactly why I’m glad Derrick Rose took his time. People can crack jokes about who came back to play before he did but for once, I’m glad an athlete showed discipline and didn’t rush back due to pressure. RG3 has been described as not himself and held back due to that brace. As if his body wants to do something but his mind can’t yet.

We often forget that the toughest part of injury recovery is mental. It’s trusting your body to do what it used to before. It’s not letting the reactions to your performance (good or bad) affect your already recovering psyche. The Scriptures say that the body is willing but the flesh is weak and too often, we see that when the mind interferes with a well-built frame.

Marketing someone’s return to action is just that. A return to playing but it doesn’t guarantee a return to stardom. It’s all about coming back to work to do your job, not asking if mentally you’re ready to do it. Like most else, injury recovery is now available to the highest bidder to fit a narrative.

It’s a catchy slogan but what does it prove when RG3 and Washington is at 1-3? What does it prove when D-Rose caught unnecessary hell for daring to listen to his body and not team doctors? Is the goal to come back or come back when you’re mentally, as well as physically, ready.

Adrian Peterson didn’t have a flashy marketing campaign when he tore up his knee. Just like Rose and RG3, he went to work and busted his butt.  His quick success has spoiled microwave fans who expect others to return quickly without realizing AD was the exception, not the rule.

Derrick Rose gave in to the campaign but he was in control of it. He wouldn’t let his teammates, coaches, doctors, media or fans force him to do anything he wasn’t ready for.

RG3 gave in to the campaign but I never thought he was in control. He wanted to come back ASAP and it seems like he and the coaching staff were at too many odds leading up to season 1. Even though I feel Shanahan hung him out to dry in the playoffs, Bryant's point about someone's image being their worst enemy is turning out true here for now. 

Griffin has used the first four games to get back in the groove and while I can't blame him for wanting to be out there when it counts, it's clear the results are mixed. Yes he's currently 6th in passing yards but he's thrown for four interceptions and he hasn't looked confident running the ball. But yet, because of the marketing and bravado and football culture, he came back maybe sooner than he would admit to (and he even hinted as much in February)

Instead of marketing recovery, we should be encouraging patience. Unfortunately, I fear we’re going to see this play out again in a month when another superstar may recover too fast from injury. Kobe Bryant may be seeing a terrible Lakers team and feel the need to throw on the Superman cape but I’d rather him wait and do it when he’s fully ready and tested it.

Modern medicine has made recovery quicker but it doesn’t mean the mind is right. RG3 talked all the good game in the world but the proof is in the pudding. Derrick Rose was honest as well and by waiting three more months instead of rushing back for the 2013 playoffs, he bought himself more time to get mentally ready to play. If anything D-Rose set himself up to succeed later while RG3 was set up to face the wrath if he failed right away because of the machine behind him.

As a Cowboys fan, I hope RG3 gets right soon. Peterson’s 2nd half performance should be a reminder that the best lies ahead. But I hope we remember that recovery - no matter what some company tells us - is a process that can’t be sped up and it continues long after athletes are cleared to play.

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