National Press Club

Sheinin presents RGIII book

August 28, 2013 | By Rodrigo Valderrama |

Dave Sheinin, sports reporter for The Washington Post, presented his book on Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, "RGIII, The Promise," at the National Press Club Aug. 21.

The book project began as a biography of a talented, intelligent man who is both an academic and sports achiever with a magnetic personality, but the story “changed directions in a big way,” said the author, when RGIII suffered a knee injury while playing at the end of last football season. The book is many other things, though “...also about the culture of violence in football and where Robert fit into that.” “The knee injury made the arc of the book deeper and richer in some ways,” explained Sheinin.

“The culture of violence in football became the narrative thread that kind of tied together the rest of the story” of the young man from Texas with roots in New Orleans, Sheinin said. The thread, sparked with a pinky finger promise RGIII made to his mother not to get hurt playing ball as a youngster, brings to light a recurring issue in football - the players’ health during and after their short-lived careers, the author said.

Sheinin began the book last year in March, which he indicated was “what wound up saving him” because all access dried up after the controversial knee injury at the end of the season. When asked if he made the publisher’s deadline, Shenin responded, “I did. I’m a first time author and I guess that’s like a rookie mistake. I was sort of ridiculed for making my deadline,” as the audience chuckled.

Dave Sheinin stressed that RGIII did not suddenly become a phenomenon when stepping onto the Redskin's field. Robert “had four major commercial campaigns nationwide airing before he took his first snap, so it’s not the creation of the media,” he said.

The writer continued, “the question for me became, what is the ceiling for him? What is the precedent for him as sport icon? ...It is very rare to find someone...(with) all those qualities. You rarely see all of them in one person.” Sheinin attributes much of RGIII’s success to the “great parenting” he received.

Sheinin responded to a question whether RGIII can still fulfill part of being great if he cannot play any more: “The answer is, he has to win. If we are talking Jordan caliber or Ali caliber, which I think he could get to that level you’re going to have a couple of titles.”

The knee injury debate, whether or not RGIII should play and how the team management and RGIII should decide, prevailed as a dominant topic throughout the book presentation. The author described Robert Griffin III as having “incredible drive, competitiveness and it may be his fatal flaw.”

“There is so much public pressure and scrutiny on Shanahan and the way they handle this, that Robert fears that they are going to let that dictate when he comes back, as opposed to - when he is ready. I think that tears him up,” Sheinin said.

“The thing that we still need to see if he’s learned is how to protect himself,” he continued. “He’s gotta learn. That, to me, is the most fascinating story line in 2013. Can he get down, can he pull himself back?”

Asked about the kind of team the Redskins will have this season, Dave Sheinin responded that the Redskins offense “ought to be maybe the best in the NFL. Then, it’s just a question of - can the defense do its part?”

Referring to sports writing, the author stated: “There’s probably better sport writing now than ever, it’s not all being done on newspapers. There are five or six nationwide sports websites:; Yahoo; CBS Sportsline; Fox Sports, I mean there are so many outlets now, so sports writing is not dead, this might be the greatest it's ever been.”