A few hours after I asked whether people should be more excited about the Nationals, I happened to be listening to the Junkies on 106.7 The Fan, just after Robert Griffin III was named Cleveland’s starting quarterback.
Now, for weeks, the hosts have been rooting for that result, under the assumption that a Griffin vs. Kirk Cousins early-season matchup at FedEx Field would be a ratings bonanza for local sports media members, and that angle came up again Monday morning.
“We are begging for that,” Jason Bishop said. “That’s a ratings grabber. RGIII vs. Cousins, here, week four? Huge ratings boost for the Junks.”
I can’t say the same thought hasn’t crossed my sad, click-starved, hype-obsessed mind. Whatever you thought about him, Washington’s former starter moved the needle; Washington’s current roster has thus far swallowed the needle and is napping off the effects. But I still was thinking of this Browns matchup as merely as a one-week surge of guaranteed interest, during a season that might or might not be interesting.
But then my pal John Auville took things past the exit ramp of future ratings, through the gas station of “filling a couple of segments in early August,” and straight into the rest stop of all-out absurdity.
“RGIII comes back to FedEx Field?” he said. “How about it’s the biggest event of 2016. How could it not be? It’s the biggest single event of 2016 in D.C. sports — RGIII returns — unless the Nats win the World Series. What’s bigger?”
Bishop suggested that Game 1 of an NLCS against the Cubs would be bigger, not to mention Games 2 or 3 or 7. Auville disagreed.
“No it’s not,” he said. “I don’t think so. It’s not. If RGIII is the starter, him coming back to play at FedEx Field against Kirk Cousins, against the Redskins, is the biggest single sports story in D.C., short of the Nats winning the World Series.”
Both men then agreed that it would be surely bigger than the Caps-Penguins playoff meeting; Bishop joked (?) that “it’s probably bigger than the Wizards playing the Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.”
Anyhow, the morning show then opened up its phone lines for listener reaction. This was possibly not a rigorously scientific public-opinion survey of the Washington area at large, but nine people called in during the 10 minutes before the program ended. Four people said a Nats-Cubs NLCS would be bigger. Five people voted for RGIII vs. Kirk Cousins. One sports blogger nearly drove off I-95.
Now, as always, I have no idea how we’re measuring comparative size. Public interest? TV ratings? The irresistiblity of clicking on a truly sumptuous Web headline? How high the story would run on “SportsCenter?” Or the intrinsic and lasting value to the sporting universe?
Being a tradition-bound simpleton, I would offer a 2016 D.C. Sports Bigness Rating of something like this:
1) Redskins-Packers playoff game
2) Nats playoffs series (although a World Series or NLCS would trump Redskins-Packers)
3) Caps-Penguins, together with the after-tremors and leftover blood spatters of Caps-Flyers
4) Redskins-Cowboys on Thanksgiving (speculative, but seems like a sure hit, barring total collapse)
5) Redskins-Steelers season opener on “Monday Night Football”
And then you can argue about the rest. RGIII vs. Cousins would rank somewhere ahead of Maryland’s Sweet 16 loss to Kansas and the Week 3 matchup with the Giants, but possibly behind the first Redskins meeting with the Cowboys. And if both teams are leading their divisions, it’s hard for me not to believe that prime-time late-season matchups with the Packers and Panthers wouldn’t also trump Griffin.
But maybe I’m out of touch. Maybe RGIII vs. Cousins is actually on top. Either way, it’s good enough for an early August blog post asking the question.