The two electrifying rookies exploded onto the scene with killer smiles, undeniable gifts, an affinity for superheroes, poise beyond their years and the ability to play at top form when it's all on the line. Both stay so calm under pressure that they have evoked comparisons to Cool Hand Luke.
The capital of winning and losing now revolves around two natural-born world shakers: the president of the United States and the quarterback of the Washington Redskins. Only one of them, however, is old enough to appreciate the compliment of being compared to Paul Newman's character in the 1967 classic prison drama "Cool Hand Luke."
"Coach said you're just like Cool Hand Luke," a reporter said to Robert Griffin III, after the Baylor graduate and Heisman Trophy winner returned home to Texas on Thanksgiving and scored four touchdowns to lasso the Dallas Cowboys, the Redskins' biggest rival. "Do you know who Cool Hand Luke is?"
The 22-year-old Griffin did not. But he laughed, shaking his braids held back with a silver headband, and observed, "He must be pretty cool."
RGIII has made the Redskins vibrant again and coalesced the city around football. The Redskins have only a 5-6 record -- that was the first Thanksgiving game the team had won since 1973 -- but the city has gone wild for the charismatic Griffin, who is as fleet on the field as an unopposed incumbent with a super PAC.
Comparing him favorably with the "impossibly wasteful"
Even the crowd at Cowboys Stadium could not resist, chanting "RGIII!" and booing their own team off the field at halftime."The most valuable player in the entire National Football League," Jimmy Johnson, the former Cowboys coach, declared on the Fox halftime show.
My family of rabid Redskins fans stopped talking to me about football back in the '70s, when they took me to a game and I didn't recognize Roger Staubach. So they're stunned now at my sudden desire to dissect RGIII's mastery of the bootleg.
His passes thrill, and his partnership with another unpretentious rookie, the compact but fierce running back Alfred Morris, dazzles. But what is really endearing is his spirit: a zeal to make every play count, a work ethic and self-effacing charm that has everyone rooting for him, a leadership style that causes teammates to lift their games. You can see RGIII going up and down the sidelines patting his teammates for encouragement. And in a rare move, the team voted to make the rookie quarterback a captain.
The Bears fan in the White House has talked about inviting RGIII (who got his degree in political science) over for a basketball game, as long as they are on the same team. The president should take the opportunity to absorb some leadership lessons from the new wunderkind.
While Obama has developed an unnerving and enervating pattern of going into a prewin slump -- as in the first debate with Mitt Romney -- RGIII never allows his batteries to run down while he's playing. His parents were Army sergeants -- he was born in Okinawa, Japan, and his father served in Iraq -- who imbued their son with the ethos of hard work and discipline. The only time Griffin drooped was when he got a concussion in the game against Atlanta.
As a Democratic senator recently told me: "If only the president would have us over to the White House sometimes and talk to us, it could really help. When Bill Clinton called and asked if he could have my vote, I was more prone to do it because we had developed a rapport."
Let's hope that as Barry watches Robert, he'll learn that stunning opponents with big plays, and then building on that excitement, can energize his teammates, scare his opponents and lead to big wins.
Maureen Dowd is a syndicated columnist.