Column: Stop hating athletes for being confident

WASHINGTON — In an interview Sunday with WJLA’s Alex Parker, Robert Griffin III said the following:

“I know I’m the best quarterback on this team. I feel like I’m the best quarterback in the league.”

Taken in a bubble, out of appropriate context, it’s understandable why some people might find this statement absurd. After all, the only two categories in which he ranked in the top 10 among NFL quarterbacks last year were yards lost on sacks (227) and fumbles (9).

But we don’t have to rely on the comment out of context. Here was the full statement:

“I don’t feel like I have to come out here and show anybody anything, or why I’m better than this guy or better than that guy. It’s more about going out and affirming that, for me, I go out and I play, I know I’m the best quarterback on this team. I feel like I’m the best quarterback in the league. I feel like I can go out and show that.

“Any athlete at any level, if they concede to someone else, they’re not a top competitor. They’re not trying to be the best that they can be. There’s guys in this league that have done way more than me, but I still view myself as the best, because that’s what I work towards every single day. When I step out on that field, it’s time for me to go out and prove it, and that’s what I do every time.”

If you’re a Washington Redskins fan, would you really want your quarterback to feel any less confidence than that?

Bryce Harper came into the 2015 season as the most overrated player in Major League Baseball, according to his peers. Like Griffin, he had a thrilling 2012 rookie campaign, but had yet to live up to his full potential in two years since. And like Griffin, he remained unrepentantly confident, having always been the best player at every level of his life, and still being just 22 years old.

Without ever changing his attitude, Harper has exploded to hit .328 with a National League-leading 30 home runs, .452 on-base percentage and .638 slugging percentage. He’s the front-runner to win the National League MVP Award.

This isn’t to say that Griffin will necessarily leap forward to become the best quarterback in the NFL this year. But, like Harper, he was the best player on his high school team and, as his Heisman Trophy in 2011 attests, the best on his college team and arguably in the nation.

Top-echelon athletes have nearly always been the best player on every team they have played, a fact that gives them supreme confidence. It’s that confidence that allows them to succeed while tens of thousands of other humans scream at the top of their lungs for them to fail.

So, I ask again: Why would you not want that trait in your starting quarterback?

A certain segment of sports fans have been swept off their feet by Jordan Spieth, not because he’s great at golf, but because he acts so modestly about being good. There are plenty of other great golfers in this next generation, from Rory McIlroy, to Dustin Johnson last weekend’s PGA Championship winner Jason Day. But Spieth has become the poster boy not simply due to his two major wins this year, but for how he has carried himself.

There’s nothing wrong with being humble on the outside — just don’t mistake it for any athlete’s true character when the cameras are off.

If you don’t think Spieth believes he is better than everyone out there each week, you are sorely mistaken. He most certainly does. And so does McIlroy, and Day, and every other top-level professional in any sport, because if they didn’t see that potential in themselves, they’d never achieve it. To become that great takes a Type-A level of ruthless self-flagellation through hours a day of practice and training from a very young age. When you work that hard, you expect to be great.

“I welcome the expectation,” Griffin told Parker. “I welcome the belief, the hope, because that’s what your quarterback is supposed to instill, not only in the fan base, but also in his team.”

Of course Griffin also experiences self-doubt: He’s human. But he doesn’t owe it to you, or to me, or to anyone else to express that publicly. More so, why would you want him to?

If hating an athlete for being outwardly confident helps fuel some fire inside of you, helps make you feel better about your own athletic or professional failings, maybe it’s time to take a closer look in the mirror and ask yourself why.

Is RG3 the best quarterback in the NFL? It doesn’t matter. If thinking so helps him stay focused through the injuries and the noise and makes him a better quarterback, any fan should take that in a heartbeat over a modest, mediocre signal-caller.

After all, that approach has worked out pretty well for Harper this year.

Follow @WTOP on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

© 2015 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.

Federal News Network Logo

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up