Aaron Rodgers has finally arrived. The Green Bay Packers quarterback may have won the Super Bowl and its MVP title, two league MVP titles, and six trips to the Pro Bowl since emerging from the shadow of first-ballot Hall of Famer Brett Favre, but those achievements pale in comparison to getting a 5,000-word profile from one of ESPN The Magazine’s best writers.
Rodgers visited the home of Senior Writer Mina Kimes to talk football’s disappointing glory, Christianity’s disappointing God, and (of course) Colin Kaepernick—all of which can only mean one thing: Rodgers is going to have a terrible season.
Before we get to the why, we must first get to the what, since the Internet has destroyed the ability of grown-ups to sit still for 20 minutes to read 5,000 words (you can prove me wrong by reading a certain 4,000-word feature on the downfall of Big Tobacco when it drops Monday at FreeBeacon.com). Here are five take-aways from the ESPN profile.
1. Aaron Rodgers Is an Honorable Man
Rodgers has been the subject of much tabloid fodder after dating Olivia Munn, an actress best known for her roles in “Scarecrow Gone Wild,” “National Lampoon’s Strip Poker,” and Rob Schneider’s “Big Stan.” The couple garnered the slavish celebrity power-couple worship headlines that dominate the supermarket checkout lines, though the media stopped short of giving them the full nickname treatment because OliviAaron and Modgers don’t quite measure up to Branjelina or Kimye.
It wasn’t until his younger brother Jordan complained about Aaron’s strained relationship with the family on the set of “The Bachelorette” that the elder Rodgers got a taste of the dark side of celebrity obsession: America builds you up to Olympian heights to make the fall even more epic.
A New York Times interview with Rodgers’ estranged father confirming Jordan’s account left the press salivating and forced Internet users worldwide to take sides in the fight—an odd way to go about things if reconciliation is one’s goal. The quarterback, however, refuses to air dirty laundry to the press.
“He tells me he doesn’t see any upside in discussing those issues in public. ‘It needs to be handled the right way,’” Kimes writes. “It bears mentioning that Rodgers never pulled me aside to tell me off the record his side of the story (about this or any critique).”
2. Aaron Rodgers Surfs with Rob Bell
The profile still offers a glimpse into the potential source of his family rift. He considers former pastor Rob Bell a friend. The Hairplugged Heretic supplied visual proof to ESPN.
3. Rob Bell Is Who We Thought He Was
Rodgers grew up in a conservative Christian household, graduating from Christian youth group Young Life to sports ministry Athletes in Action. He credited his parents for imparting him with a rich faith: “I grew up knowing what a stable relationship was by my parents’ example and how it centered on Christ,” Rodgers once said. “When our family had its ups and downs, I knew my parents relied on God for everything and He always got us through those rough spots.”
But then he met Rob Bell. From ESPN: “‘The Bible opens with a poem,’ he adds. ‘It’s a beautiful piece of work, but it was never meant to be interpreted as I think some churches do.’ I ask him whether he still sees himself as a Christian, and he says he no longer identifies with any affiliation…It wasn’t until he confronted his own ‘narrow-minded’ views about the world and his place in it, he says, that he experienced a sense of the fulfillment he yearned for.”
There’s a reason Bell is Oprah’s favorite theologian.
4. Aaron Rodgers Needs to Watch More Daniel Tosh
Whenever someone says “I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual,” the best response can be found in the Book of Daniel (Tosh) 1:2: “I’m not honest, but you’re really interesting.” Someone should tell Rodgers. “I think organized religion can have a mind-debilitating effect, because there is an exclusivity that can shut you out from being open to the world, to people, and energy, and love and acceptance,” Rodgers told ESPN.
5. Aaron Rodgers Is Going to Have a Bad Season
This is exactly why Rodgers is going to have a bad season. He may have led the league in touchdown passes, posted career highs in completions and attempts, and finished 4th in QB rating in 2016, but mark my words, tragedy looms as the 2017 season opens September 7. You can thank ESPN, which has supplanted Sports Illustrated and Madden as the leading cause of hexes on players.
It’s called the Earnest ESPN Curse, in which players are hailed as brave or pioneering or historic for having the audacity to agree with journalists’ political, religious, or cultural views. Anytime ESPN starts doling out the effusive praise usually found on those supermarket tabloids Rodgers once graced with Munn, bad things start to happen. The most recent example, of course, is National Anthem kneeler and noted vegan Colin Kaepernick’s unemployment status (which Rodgers laments), but there are many, many more.
2008: Texas Rangers relief pitcher and future starter C.J. Wilson dazzles ESPN as “A free-thinking Californian with an appreciation for Obama, a dislike of Bush, a hatred of the Clintons, a detestation of SUVs, and a longing for a grass-roots political movement that would truly represent the needs of the people, Wilson stares blankly when asked who among his teammates he can talk with about Decision ‘08.” Those teammates only talk about worthless things like baseball, Jesus, and breasts. Wilson finishes the season with a 6.02 ERA and 1.64 WHIP.
2013: Notre Dame Heisman contender Manti Te’o, whose dead girlfriend generated so much sympathy from and clicks for ESPN, gets crushed in the National Championship. A week later the girlfriend turns out to be a hoax.
Nothing could have prepared us for the Earnest ESPN bloodbath of 2015. The heroic Bruce Jenner changed his name to Caitlyn and won ESPN’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award in June, which of course had nothing to do with fellow Disney-owned ABC scoring his first national interview. Then he endorsed Ted Cruz and voted Donald Trump—heresies that would make Bell believe in hell.
In August, ESPN published a 5,000-word profile of Arian Foster, hailing him as the first openly atheist athlete and slobbering all over his “Coexist” and “Self Made” tattoos. “Sure, Arian Foster is a star running back, but he’s now being called the first active pro-athlete to stand up for secular Americans,” reporter Cary Chow says, pounding his fist into his hands for emphasis in a video segment accompanying the profile.
The celebratory tone stood in stark contrast to how the network covered other athletes speaking out for their faith. “Murphy now to talk baseball only,” the headline reads, though the original can still be found in the URL: “Mets’ Murphy to Keep Religious Beliefs to Himself,” the network hissed after second baseman Daniel Murphy had the nerve to say he believes in the biblical teaching to hate the sin and love the sinner.
And here we have the ultimate test of the ESPN Earnestness Curse. On October 21, 2015, Murphy won the National League Championship Series MVP after breaking the post-season record for consecutive games with a homerun. On October 25, a Sunday, celebrated atheist Arian Foster tore his Achilles tendon ending his season averaging 2.6 yards a carry. His NFL career was over after playing four games in 2016, around the same time Murphy finished second in the NL batting title.
Rodgers better hope that all of the “energy, and love and acceptance” he stored up can hold up against the tide of goodwill from the Worldwide Leader in Sports.