A couple of days after it had been reported that he wants out of Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers showed up at the Kentucky Derby.
He gave two interviews while there. One was off-camera. It had to be summarized by NBA play-by-play guy Mike Tirico.
“I characterize Aaron as disappointed that news has come out of this rift with the Packers,” Tirico said. “There is a chasm between management and the reigning NFL MVP.”
Let’s get this straight. Rodgers is disappointed that a private work matter has become public, and wants to let people know that all the super-private information they’ve heard is 100-per-cent correct. God, I wonder who could have been the leak in the first place?
The second interview was on-camera. The Green Bay Packers didn’t come up. However, during that brief one-on-one, Rodgers wore a name tag that read “Turd Ferguson.”
Ferguson is a minor character in a Saturday Night Live skit featuring contestants on make-believe Jeopardy!, a game show Rodgers recently guest-hosted in real life and jokingly said he’d like to work on full-time.
Do you get the impression Aaron Rodgers may spend a bit too much time in his own head? Do people need to clap their hands to get Rodgers to focus on what they’re saying? Because that would be one clue that doesn’t require a custom name tag.
It’s a cliché that athletes aren’t that bright. That’s not at all true. As a general rule, pros are extremely sharp when it comes to a very few things. You could call what they have physical genius, no different than Einstein’s genius for mathematics, just in a different field of endeavour.
What the pros aren’t is worldly. They’re not clued in to things or particularly curious. Many lack a gift for conversation, probably because they’ve been uncritically listened to their whole lives. Talking to them can feel like a fishing expedition in a very shallow bucket.
But a few are exceptional at everything. I covered Scott Rolen for a year with the Blue Jays. Rolen was a giant of a man, a shockingly gifted athlete and so sharp you felt a shameful urge to impress him whenever you spoke.
You’d come into the clubhouse a few hours before a game. Some guys would be playing cards. A few others would be scrolling their phones or stretching or watching TV. Rolen would be sprawled out at his cubby reading a book. And not some wretched piece of bestselling non-fiction. A novel.
In baseball, displays of intellectualism are considered showing off. If you must read, you should not do it where others can see you.
Rolen was immune to that, partly because he was a hall of fame-level talent, and partly because he didn’t seem to care what his co-workers thought of him. Don’t get me wrong. He was a lovely person to be around. He just didn’t have that fault of character the rest of us have, the one that convinces us others are constantly judging us. He was comfortable in the world.
Rodgers strikes me as a bit of a Rolen, just one granted a larger stage at a weirder time with a greater willingness to put it to use. That is not a compliment.
Rodgers is clearly smarter than your average bear. Most quarterbacks are. As he’s gotten older, he has worked hard to cultivate the impression that he has, you know, interests. Jeopardy! was the culmination of that effort.
Jeopardy! is also a dull-witted person’s idea of a smart television show. Choosing it as your springboard suggests a limited view of the possibilities available to a super-wealthy, not-yet-middle-aged, aspiring citizen of the world.
Everything Rodgers has done since suggest the same sort of cloistered view. He wants out of Green Bay because last year they drafted his successor in the first round. Rodgers was reportedly incandescent when it happened. This is all payback for that decision.
Rodgers is 37. He’s not going to play forever. Preparing for the future is a lot more than half a general manager’s job, because there’s not a whole lot he can do about the present.
There is also the question of hypocrisy. This is exactly how Rodgers got the job he loves so much. He was drafted as Brett Favre’s replacement and spent several uncomfortable years on the bench while Favre pouted about it. Rodgers understands better than anyone that this is the way sports works.
But, okay, fine, he wants out. That’s fair. Anyone can ask for anything, which would be the smart play here. Just ask for what you want. The fans will hate you in the short term, but that never lasts. The urge to nostalgia is too strong.
Instead of the smart thing, Rodgers has chosen the clever thing. He’s sending out cryptic messages through third parties. He’s showing up places and lingering there meaningfully. He’s contacting reporters to ask them what they’ve heard, knowing full well they will report that he did that. He wants people to know without him telling them.
This isn’t smart. It’s childish. It pulled straight from the Taylor Swift playbook for interpersonal relationships, except that she was a kid in her early 20s when she was into it. So she has an excuse.
If the goal here is making Rodgers look smart and in control, he is achieving the opposite. He looks petulant and unserious.
This is what happens when smart people begin to believe they are smarter than everyone else and are tolerated in doing so. They run amok. Usually, they try this around high-school age. Rodgers is nearly 40.
He’s good at many things, and preposterously gifted at a few. Psychology – understanding it, exercising it, turning it inward – is evidently not one of them.
Like all special people, Rodgers could do with a course in how the normals think. What do we do when confronted with a chore we can’t manage? We outsource it.
You want to be the hall of famer who went from league MVP to the Bob Barker of the Mensa set? Great. Do that. You want to figure out how to screw over the team that put you in the position to afford this whacky lifestyle without seeming to have done that? Get your agent to do it. He’s actually good at this sort of thing. So good he does it for a living.