RG3’s popularity continues to grow — and sometimes test what seems reasonable

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Griffin, though, doesn’t have to deliberately connect. Specialists see in him inherent attributes that widen the avenues of connection into a four-lane interstate.

“Some people, it isn’t hard to market them because they are that way and you’re just selling what you have,” said Edward Hirt, a social psychology professor at Indiana University. “I think we feel like we can relate to him. He’s a nice person. He has good values. He’s not so full of himself. He can be self-deprecating or at least look like a kid, look like somebody who’s just like the rest of us.”

The impact is twofold. After Griffin gains a fan by connecting with them, the fan’s self-nurturing instincts compel them to connect with other Griffin supporters.

“If you’re a Redskins fan and you live in or around D.C. and it’s August, it’s hard to feel lonely,” Wann said. “It’s the excitement of the new season. If it’s October and you’re walking up and down the streets of D.C. with a Redskins hat on, people are saying hi to you. You get these connections through fandom, and those connections lead to lower levels of alienation, of loneliness.”

So the fans with the RG3 tattoos or the personalized RG3 license plates, or the ones who incessantly tweet at him, aren’t crazy, after all. But what is the limit? Where does this stop?

Perhaps there is no end. We might be witnessing the early stage of a continuous exercise in one-upmanship to see who can most strongly identify or connect with Griffin.

These processes are sustainable, but they also are fragile, specialists say. If identification depends on Griffin’s excellence on and off the field, then a fulfilling outcome is not guaranteed for all participants, especially considering the pitfalls of the personal access he affords fans, particularly online.

As in any relationship, those bonds between Griffin and his fans include expectations. The pressure on Griffin to meet them and his personal stake in that is the price of fame.

“A lot of fans, if you gave them a choice — do you want to lose with good guys or win with bad guys? — they’ll take win with bad guys,” Wann said. “But to win with the good guys — that’s part of what’s driving this excitement. Maybe they’re going to have their cake and eat it, too.”

And if that happens?

“Those are the ones that become iconic,” Wann said.

Griffin already cemented that status in the Elgin household. His thank-you note will soon hang in a frame, the fan-engagement equivalent of Griffin’s offensive rookie of the year trophy.

“Now,” Elgin said, “no matter what happens — if he’s terrible, if he tears his ACL and retires, if he goes to another team after his contract ends, whatever it might be — we’re fans of him for life.”

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