In DC, it’s not the elections garnering the lion’s share of discussion. It’s the late-game benching of Washington Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb. The always classy McNabb has spent a career avoiding controversy like the plague. He may never seek controversy, but controversy always seems to seek him. It’s hard to imagine an athlete who has been more milquetoast and manicured, and yet always finds himself as our sports generation’s unwilling lightning rod.
McNabb spent eleven years wrestling for the affections of Philadelphia’s uniquely surly fans. During that time, he had to deal with Rush Limbaugh bleating that he was getting a free ride because of his skin color, former teammate Terrell Owens questioning his leadership, and firestorms when he speculated in 2007 that black quarterbacks just might have a tougher time with fans than their white counterparts. Then McNabb became the first pro-bowl quarterback in history to be traded inside his own division when he was sent from the Eagles to the Redskins. He has then had to watch as the city of Brotherly Love that never loved him, embrace the far more controversial and far less polished Michael Vick. Through it all, McNabb has remained classy, always classy. This is just the McNabb way.
As he once said, "I try to handle myself with class. I try to handle myself with dignity. I think sometimes people look to players to act out, speak loudly, pretty much be an idiot. But that’s not me."
The latest saga involves McNabb’s bizarre benching against the Detroit Lions with 1:48 to go and his team down six points. Coach Mike Shanahan, who looks like George W. Bush with the John Boehner tan (seriously, it’s as if his years as head coach of the Denver Broncos died his skin orange) took that moment of all moments to call on McNabb’s utterly incomptent backup Rex Grossman to win the game. True to form, Grossman coughed it up on his first play, his fumble returned for a touchdown, sealing the game.
The entire scenario, to put it mildly, was bizarre. With the game on the line, Shanahan sat his future Hall of Fame quarterback who had already equaled the team’s win total of last year for a backup bust who couldn’t hit the earth if he fell from a plane. Other than Sports Illustrated’s Peter King praising Shanahan’s "stones", most thought he was just stone crazy.