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New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers warms up before an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills on Monday, Sep. 11 in East Rutherford, N.J.Rusty Jones/The Associated Press

After it had all fallen apart, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson released a video on X.

It shows his most expensive depreciating asset, quarterback Aaron Rodgers, running onto the field for his Jets’ debut. The camera trails Rodgers in slow motion as he bursts into the stadium waving an American flag. The soundtrack is Thunderstruck by AC/DC – presumably, the sort of music Johnson thinks the kids are really digging these days.

The caption to the post reads: “The story is not over. Come back strong.”

Come back strong? Rodgers is 39 years old. He just blew out his Achilles. If he’s coming back at all, he’s coming back old and weak.

It’s one thing for an aging baseball player to step into the box one more time to take a few cuts for nostalgia’s sake. The worst thing that’s going to happen to him is slipping a disc.

The worst thing that can happen to Rodgers is getting hit so hard by some 275-pound Tomahawk missile that his insides become his outsides.

Rodgers has his Super Bowl. He’s a mortal lock for the hall of fame. He’s made US$300-million in his career and is owed another US$75-million by Woody Johnson whether or not he plays again. Unless he has a low-grade death wish, there is zero reason for this guy to come back.

But America appears to be in agreement – Rodgers can be great again.

“I’d be shocked if this is the way he’s going to go out,” said Jets head coach Robert Saleh.

What way is that? Down on the ground, requiring medical assistance?

Here’s some bad news for you – eventually, we’re all going out that way. Modern sports culture is responsible for this goofy belief that everything, including perpetual youth, is possible. You just have to want it badly enough.

How badly does Rodgers want it? So far, so murky.

Rodgers was injured on Monday. He took Tuesday off, probably so he could lie on his couch muttering, ‘You have GOT to be kidding me.’

By Wednesday, he was distracting himself with his second great passion – creating content.

“Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers …” Rodgers wrote in part on Instagram.

Well, I was going to pray for the civilians getting bombed in Yemen, but it sounds like you’re having a harder time right now so okay.

“The night is darkest before the dawn,” Rodgers continued. “And I shall rise yet again.”

It’s the “yet” that gets me. That’s the “yet” of a guy who read For Whom the Bell Tolls in high school and never recovered.

What does “rise again” mean exactly? From his hospital bed, into a play-by-play booth or onto a football field?

By Friday, he’d had surgery, was back on friendly airwaves and Tendonpolooza 2023 was on: “Give me your doubts, your prognostications, then watch what I do.”

For visual accompaniment to his initial IG post, Rodgers had the same idea as his boss – a picture of himself holding Old Glory.

Is it too hokey to suggest that Rodgers thinks of himself not just as an American, but as America? As an embodiment of the country, its current state and its aspirations? Down but not out. Currently removed from the fray, but still the best there is. Just ask them.

The flag was a bold choice. You don’t see people in the entertainment business waving the U.S. flag much any more. Or ever.

Even Captain America has given up on the flag. These days, he’s just a colour scheme. He could just as easily be Captain France.

In the comics, Captain America’s shtick was that he was the world’s greatest patriot. But that would offend half of modern America, including the nerdy part, so the movies have nudged him away from national allegiances. For theatrical purposes, Captain Mumblemumble is now the world’s greatest discus thrower.

That means there’s a job opening, one Rodgers would apparently like to help fill.

He is a collection of all the clichés of contemporary American manhood – he spends a lot of time in the gym and doing podcasts; he doesn’t want to be told what to do, especially by the Surgeon General; he’s read a book and can’t stop explaining it to you; you wouldn’t think it, but he really likes Taylor Swift (just like everyone else); he’s dating every man’s dream girl – a billionaire influencer; he’s not too macho to embrace the emoji as a primary means of communication.

Like America, Rodgers has a lot of haters. Like America, he can’t stop telling everyone else in the world how he does things, assuming you should do them that way, too. Like America, his modesty fills every room he’s in.

These are not necessarily bad things. I’ll take America’s puppy dog enthusiasm when it comes to global relations over Canada’s same-old-dog/same-old-tricks act most days. The only thing Canada really has going for it is that we don’t feel the same need to be talking all the time.

Mostly, America talks and we nod along: “Culture war, you say? You think that might be exciting for us, too? Well, yeah, okay, we’ll give that a try. Maybe we’ll start with … lemme think … a huge traffic jam? What do you mean we’re doing it wrong?”

Rodgers is a blue-state guy with red-state tendencies. He’s about as politically up-the-middle as it gets in the United States these days. There are facets to his personality that appeal to all comers. Come for the vaccine hesitater, stay for the bibliophile. Plus, he could really play.

Pulling for flag-waver Aaron Rodgers to return to play football is a safe way for America to discuss its own hoped-for renaissance.

His comeback is America’s comeback on a bigger stage. Because in most of America, the goings-on at the UN or the White House cannot possibly compare with the vital importance of NFL Sundays.

With all that in mind, of course Rodgers is coming back. He owes it to his country. Whether he’s coming back a superhero or the walking wounded is another matter.

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