TSL Top 10: Fan Love Is Not Unconditional – #4

In what turned out to be one of the more prescient pieces of 2013, Bomani Jones penned a note to RG3 warning him about the trappings of fame. While recovering from another torn ACL, Griffin's popularity earned him hundreds of wedding gifts from adoring fans expecting the second coming of Superman when the season started in 2013. As Bo warned at the time, it might not always be this rosy for RG3, and now it looks like the days of complete adulation may be gone. Here's a preview, and be sure to check the full piece here.

Even though he’s recovering from a devastating injury, life may never be as good for Robert Griffin III as it is right now. His team mortgaged much of its future to trade for him, and he exceeded expectations. At 23, he’s a unifying source in a city whose primary industry is fueled by polarity. He is cash money for media, both locally and nationally. He is the rare NFL player who can call himself a singular, individual star.

This was never clearer than on Sunday afternoon, when Griffin posted a picture on Twitter from his home, his feet planted on his hardwood floors and his back resting on dozens of empty boxes, once full of wedding gifts sent from Redskins fans. He looked totally satisfied, perfectly aware that this isn’t just how star quarterbacks are treated – this is how Robert Griffin is treated in Washington. Right now, he’s that big.

Right now.

Hopefully, behind that smirk is an understanding of how tenuous his place is in the hearts of Redskin fans. There is no unconditional love in the NFL. No one season – not even one as dynamic as Griffin’s rookie campaign – can make a player bulletproof, if it ended with a loss. Today’s love can quickly become tomorrow’s disappointment and resentment, and it can happen so quickly that a house full of free stuff wouldn’t be worth the trouble.

And, through no fault of his own, Griffin is closer to that tipping point than he seems to realize.

Griffin is recovering from torn knee ligaments, which he suffered when his coaches treated him like some combination of a racehorse and John Henry. They ran him until he couldn’t go anymore, and he didn’t stop because there was work to be done. The coaches were as stupid as Griffin was noble, but that can’t be changed. Now, with Adrian Peterson looking for another 2,000 yards rushing this season, and after Derrick Rose’s credibility was wrecked by his decision to sit out the full year, all eyes will be on Griffin and his return to the field.

When training camps open, this will be the biggest story of the NFL season. A player this exciting, coming off a successful campaign, playing for a team with a national following would guarantee that. But right now, we have no idea when he will play again or how he’ll look when he does.

That’s why this story could also be the ugliest