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Sunday Musing: Aaron Rodgers

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Folks, on Sundays I often try to write something a little different, something that makes you think. And today, I have an almost ideal subject, albeit for a not-so-great reason, that subject being Aaron Rodgers. (He was injured today, you see. But I’ll get to that in a bit.)

When Rodgers first became the starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, I wasn’t happy. (Yeah, I’ll admit it.) I was a big fan of Brett Favre and Favre’s happy-go-lucky style of play, and Rodgers was more sedate, much quieter, and far less flamboyant.

However, over time, I’ve learned to appreciate Rodgers. He is a deep thinker, as well as a fierce competitor, and he seems to have a very solid moral compass. (He reads, too, and I’m a big fan of that…no surprise, huh?)

Rodgers is the type of guy who learns from experience. He is mature, and has a personality that I probably would like, one-on-one.

So, why was it that when Rodgers, who probably had all of these qualities to begin with in some fashion or another, came into his own with the Packers that I didn’t appreciate him very much at all?

I think there’s something to do with loyalty that came into play, there. It was hard to give Rodgers a chance when I still liked Favre and believed Favre could play, and play well, in the NFL. And even though it wasn’t up to Rodgers at all as to when Rodgers would finally get his time to shine (as if it were, Rodgers would’ve started from the moment he got drafted by the Packers, and that obviously didn’t happen), it was difficult to see Rodgers’ worth or value.

This is the value of time, though. It gives you the opportunity to re-evaluate your snap judgments. Some of them are right; I liked Favre from the start, for example. But some are flat wrong, and are colored by prejudgments that can’t help but keep you from seeing the whole picture.

As my cousin Wayne put it a while back, Favre and Rodgers are both great, but in different ways. One was relatable and quotable; the other humane and thoughtful. But both are wonderful players, and are interesting people with unique perspectives on life, to boot.

And that’s important to think about. Rodgers is a person, with feelings and wants and needs and desires of his own. He’s not an automaton. He’s a real, live person, and he’s about to have to endure the hardest thing any athlete in his prime hates, that being a major injury.

Earlier today in the game versus the Minnesota Vikings, Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone. He will be out for quite some time. There’s even a possibility that Rodgers will be out the entire remainder of the 2017 season.

I hope Rodgers will heal quickly and well.

But while he heals, I also hope he’ll continue doing what he was already — that is, studying, reading, thinking hard, doing good for others, and caring deeply about the world we live in.

Because as great a quarterback and football player as Rodgers is, I think he’s an even better person. And we need more people like him in this life.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 15, 2017 at 4:45 pm

Chris Kluwe, Aaron Rodgers, LGBT Advocacy and the NFL

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This was an odd week in the National Football League, wasn’t it?

First we had Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers come out and state emphatically for the record, “I really, really like women” in response to some Internet rumors regarding Rodgers’ sexuality.  This was completely unprecedented, especially considering the fact his team is preparing for a huge playoff game this Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers — a team that beat the Packers, 34-28, earlier this season in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicated.

Usually, when teams prepare for big games, the last thing any player wants to do is talk about anything except the upcoming game.  Even major stars like Rodgers generally try to sublimate their own concerns during football season, most especially during the playoffs.

So Rodgers doing this was strange, to put it mildly, and created a minor furor.

But that was nothing compared to the furor that occurred once former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe’s story at Deadspin about how he believes was fired from the Vikings partially because they didn’t like his advocacy for gay rights was published.

Here’s a bit from Kluwe’s first person account if you don’t believe me:

Throughout the months of September, October, and November, Minnesota Vikings special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer would use homophobic language in my presence. He had not done so during minicamps or fall camp that year, nor had he done so during the 2011 season. He would ask me if I had written any letters defending “the gays” recently and denounce as disgusting the idea that two men would kiss, and he would constantly belittle or demean any idea of acceptance or tolerance. I tried to laugh these off while also responding with the notion that perhaps they were human beings who deserved to be treated as human beings. Mike Priefer also said on multiple occasions that I would wind up burning in hell with the gays, and that the only truth was Jesus Christ and the Bible. He said all this in a semi-joking tone, and I responded in kind, as I felt a yelling match with my coach over human rights would greatly diminish my chances of remaining employed. I felt uncomfortable each time Mike Priefer said these things.

Kluwe’s indictment is incendiary, but rings true from my perspective as a long-term fan of the NFL. But it’s a sad commentary on our life and times, isn’t it?

What irks me so much about both these stories is this: It doesn’t have to be this way. Not even in the NFL.

Seriously, Rodgers’ sexual orientation is no one else’s business. If he’s gay, bisexual, straight, Martian — who cares? He’s a football player and is paid to win games.

As for what Kluwe says, and how outspoken he’s been about saying it, again, who cares?  He always was careful, as he points out in his article for Deadspin, to speak only for himself — not for the Vikings.  And his own former team owner, Zygi Wilf, actually complimented Kluwe on Kluwe’s stance — so if the coaches had a problem with it, especially if Kluwe continued to perform well on the field, why?

Then, contrast the two above stories with this story about the 1993 Houston Oilers, which apparently had two openly gay players on the roster. No one cared, because they played good football. They were excellent teammates. And their sexual orientation was no one else’s business but theirs.

For all the progress we’ve made in the 21st Century regarding LGBT rights, it seems ridiculous that someone like Kluwe would be fired for his advocacy of same when in 1993, no one on the Oilers cared two figs about anyone’s sexual orientation.

If the 1993 Oilers could get it right, why can’t the 2013 Vikings?

And why, oh why, would any player (much less Rodgers) believe it’s more important to talk about his rumored sexual orientation than the job he’s being paid to do, preparing for this week’s football game?

Are these two stories part of a counter-reaction to the progress that’s been made regarding LGBT rights? Significantly, is it a backlash against Jason Collins, who came out as gay last year? Is it a backlash against soccer stars Megan Rapinoe and Robbie Rogers, who’ve also come out as gay?

Is the NFL so afraid that one of its current players may come out as gay or bisexual that it’s imperative for Rodgers to interrupt his training regimen to insist that he “really likes women?”

And why couldn’t Kluwe find a job in the NFL as a punter despite being one of the better punters in the NFL for years?  The NFL’s supposed to be a results-driven league, right?

Anyway, the crux of all three stories is this:

The 1993 Oilers were right. The 2013 Vikings were wrong. And Rodgers shouldn’t need to say anything about his sexual orientation, ’cause no one should care two flying figs providing he’s doing the job on the field.

Why the NFL doesn’t seem to understand this is beyond me.

Life Trumps Football; Packers OC loses son at age 21

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Today, football took center stage as the Green Bay Packers hosted the New York Giants in the National Football League playoffs.  The Packers were heavy favorites, as they had gone 15-1 during the regular season; most people in Wisconsin thought about the game, and about whether or not the Packers would do well, and that’s as normal.

What wasn’t as normal was the grief Packers Offensive Coordinator Joe Philbin has had to deal with, as his son, Michael, died suddenly at age 21 due to what seems like misadventure in Oshkosh as his body was pulled from the bottom of the iced-over Fox River this past MondayPhilbin was away from the team, something head coach Mike McCarthy said he’d completely expected.

“Joe Philbin is where he’s supposed to be,” McCarthy said. “Frankly, Joe and I haven’t even talked about his responsibility – and will not. He’s with his family and he’ll return when he feels he’s ready to return.”

This, of course is the proper attitude to take, especially considering this was an unanticipated death of a very young man.

The Packers ended up losing today’s game, 37-20, to the Giants, which as unexpected as that was on some levels actually makes sense to me.

You see, when people who matter to you die, that’s a lot more important than any football game, no matter how much you love football and no matter how much you root for the Packers.  Even working for the Packers, as QB Aaron Rodgers, WR Donald Driver, and others do is not as important as the loss of Michael Philbin, something every single one of the Packers are likely to understand down the road (even as the sting of this loss may temporarily crowd that out).

No one, but no one, wants to go to a funeral, much less a funeral for a previously healthy and happy 21-year-old.  The Packers went en masse to the funeral on Friday, and did their best to dedicate today’s game to the memory of Michael Philbin, but to my mind the grief suffered was just too overwhelming to bear.

My heart goes out to Joe Philbin and his family over the loss of Michael; may their memories of him sustain them in their time of grief, and may the people who care about the Philbins express their condolences no matter how awkward they may sound.  Because people who grieve need to know that the life of their loved one mattered, and believe you me, most people both need and want to keep talking about the person (or people) who matter to them, even if they’re now dead.

Because none of us knows the future, please remember to let your loved ones know that you care about them every chance you get.  Not a single one of us knows how many days we have left, and since we don’t know that, and we can’t know that, we have to make the best of whatever time we have. 

That way, when you’re left with nothing but memories (as I’ve been now, twice), those memories can give you some comfort amidst the pain.

Packers win; Rodgers being praised to the skies — and I don’t care.

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The Packers won tonight, 48-21, against Atlanta.  Aaron Rodgers had an excellent game, one of his best ever.

So, why don’t I care?  A little background, first.

Folks, I have followed the Packers since I was very small — something like three or four years old.  But I’ve grown tired of the need at every step by both state and national reporters to glorify Aaron Rodgers at the expense of former Packers QB (and sure-to-be Hall of Famer) Brett Favre.

Look at tonight’s story from Yahoo Sports; first, here’s the link:

http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/recap;_ylt=AnZs3MZQTLWirpX6pR06CFk5nYcB?gid=20110115001

Next, a relevant quote:

ATLANTA (AP)—Brett who? Aaron Rodgers(notes) has turned these NFL playoffs into his own showcase.

Moving down a few paragraphs, the article continues:

Rodgers completed 31 of 36 passes for 366 yards, more than Brett Favre(notes)—the guy he replaced in Green Bay—ever threw for in a playoff game. After knocking off Michael Vick(notes) and the Eagles in Philadelphia, then dominating Matt Ryan(notes) and the Falcons in Atlanta, Rodgers is creating his own legacy in Titletown USA.

That Rodgers surely is, but comparing him to Favre is unnecessary.  Favre was a great quarterback who is now retired.  Football’s rules have changed in the past few years allowing for more offense, and Rodgers — and the Packers’ offensive schemes — have taken advantage of that.

Either Rodgers is a good quarterback on his own — I believe he is — or he isn’t, but in any event a comparison to Brett Favre is unhelpful unless you want to go back to Favre’s second or third playoff game.  (This is Rodgers’ third playoff game, the second of this year, and before this year he’d played in one and lost in one, the 48-47 shootout in Arizona last year.)

Comparing Rodgers, who is a young man with only one significant injury this year (a concussion that kept him out of a game or two), with Favre, who is over 40 and was hobbled by at least five significant injuries (foot, ankle, elbow, throwing shoulder, and a nasty concussion that kept him out of his last two games and shortened a third), is not just an “apples to oranges” comparison — it is kicking a legend, Brett Favre, while he’s down. 

I blame headlines like this on those who are angry because of Favre’s off-the-field issues or his inability to give up playing football on someone else’s timetable other than his own.  I see them as childish, mean-spirited, unnecessary, and extremely rude.

Aaron Rodgers is a good quarterback who played a very fine game.  But he is not a certain Hall of Famer just yet, and as far as his personality goes, there’s no comparison between the engaging, “aw shucks, ma’am” persona of Favre and the driven, competitive, smart but rather taciturn Rodgers.

In ten years, perhaps we’ll know if Rodgers is another Steve Young — a legend following in the footsteps of another, greater legend (in Young’s case, he followed Joe Montana in San Francisco, as all football fans know) — or if he’s another guy who’ll have a few, brief years in the sun, then start to fade as injuries take their toll.

Until then, the folks writing stories such as these really should shut the Hell up.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 16, 2011 at 12:32 am