Two days ago, based on the words of one impulsive, attention-mongering blogger, the man so many of us Packer fans have embraced not simply as the heir apparent to you-know-who, but the leader of the team that is riding high towards a Super Bowl was the target of derision nationally. Fans passionately rose to Rodgers' defense, but in the end, it took the work of bloggers like Aaron Nagler, Packer Ranter, as well as WBAY and Jan Cavanaugh herself.
You can read the blow-by-blow in a lot of places. What gets me is the wave of admiration that is flowing from the national media after Florio's about-face apology today.
Says Greg Doyel, regurgitating a lot of what we Packer fans already knew (and what we tried to tell Florio):
These were stories with context, like the one from the MACC event with the signed football, or the one from two Christmases ago when the Packers invited 75 kids from the Boys & Girls Club to a local bowling alley for soda, pizza and bowling with players. All of it free, of course. Before the event, the Packers called back and said they could accommodate more kids, so make it 100. At the event the kids were surprised with $100 each to shop for presents, accompanied by various Packers.
One was Aaron Rodgers.
He funded the whole thing himself.
And never told anyone.
That story is from 2009, but it didn't start to circulate for 12 months. Why? Because Rodgers never told the media. He was trying to help some kids, not himself.
Now, I don't fault Gregg Doyel for wanting to jump into the fray and associate his name with this story, as that's kind of his thing anyway. But I appreciate that there is a media guy who's willing to come forward with the facts as we Packer fans have known them, the same ones Florio dismissed with a wave of his hand.
Yes, suddenly it is pretty fly to be in Aaron Rodgers' corner. Mike Vandermause finally chimed in, too.
Green Bay Community Church pastor Troy Murphy has known Rodgers for three years and speaks highly of him.
“If there’s one guy that I have seen when I have been with disability veterans, cancer people, anybody that’s ill, Aaron, he loves those that have been distressed,” said Murphy, who traveled with Rodgers on an offseason trip to Fort Wainwright, Alaska, to spend time with soldiers on their way to Iraq.
Murphy remembers one instance when Packers players behind closed doors met with a child in a wheelchair.
“Aaron was the first guy up there sitting with him,” Murphy said. “He spends time, talks with him, hangs out with him. Aaron does more of that stuff, he’s a phenomenal guy that way.”
None of this is meant to nominate Rodgers for sainthood. But it gives a much more accurate glimpse into his character and stands in stark contrast to Florio’s harsh, judgmental tone based on a 2-second video clip.
One might ask Vandermause why it took him two days to pose these opinions, too. Perhaps there was a stunned lag on the part of the national media, seeing which way the tide would turn.
But, San Francisco area sports blogger Avinash Kunnath took Florio to the same harsh levels of criticism that he had laid on Rodgers to begin with, despite having no vested interest in the Packers.
No, in Mike Florio's world, CLEARLY it makes more sense that Rodgers is just an evil super villain that stomps on the dreams of his suffering and devoted fans. That is the story that needs to be reported, because people need to be torn down the moment they've been vaulted up. Maybe Florio should look in his backyard at the Packer quarterback he just picked up for an example of that narcissistic arrogance.
Now, I have seen numerous Packer bloggers say much the same thing, but this is a blogger who cares as much about the Packers as he does the Lions...and in fact, may harbor enough ill will towards Alex Smith to invite a little criticism of Rodgers. But he doesn't.
Going to the opposite coast, Buffalo blogger Matt Cooper throws in his two cents, stopping short of the mass boycott called for by most Packer bloggers, but issuing his disapproval nonetheless.
He goes on to say: “The fact that Rodgers would crap on a rare moment of happiness for someone whose entire life in consumed by fighting the disease and contending with the physical, mental, and emotional effects of it should make the stomach churn of anyone who has cancer, or who has seen a loved one stricken by it.” Apparently, Florio believes that Rodgers was “treating a cancer patient like a panhandler with leprosy” [which I think is sensationalism and much more insulting than not signing a hat, making a joke out of the situation and seemingly almost trying to make the poor woman feel worse].
Now, I'll be honest. Since Florio has already offered his mea culpa (as opposed to his he-a culpa he tried to issue a day earlier), I will expect more of the national and local media will continue to chime in support of Aaron Rodgers. And good on Aaron for it, as it is and has always been well-deserved.
What fascinates me is how a roller-coaster of public opinion has gone through tremendous downs and ups in the course of a few days over a situation that Rodgers didn't even remember or notice. Think about that: Rodgers walked through the airport with focused blinders on, didn't sign for anyone, and a few days later he's a villain. Without barely a moment to even respond to it, a day or two later he's not only exonerated, but being exalted by the locals and nationals alike.
And we wonder why athletes seem like they're on a different plane than the rest of us. Because, they are. Dude, could you live like that?
Rodgers addressed the situation today in his usual, politically-correct-yet-honest way that we've grown used to:
"Well, Jen is a great fan and we have an incredible fan base that travels well and would like to thank all the fans that showed up in Atlanta. We had a ton of fans at the airport and a ton of fans that came back. I've met Jen on previous occasions, I've signed for her, and as the video shows on this trip I didn't see her and I didn't sign for her. This kinda has turned into something I didn't really expect but I think the people of Green Bay know how I feel about them and how much I appreciate their support. This turned into something I didn't really expect."
After years of dealing with a polarizing quarterback, I'm not going to sit here and say that I'm thankful for Aaron Rodgers simply because he helps sick kids, or even does it without the expectation of being congratulated for it. I am thankful for Aaron Rodgers because he has tightroped over the flames of hell and has made it through unsinged every time. From kids cursing him on the practice field to public potshots from a blogger who gives the rest of us a bad name, Rodgers handles the PR world as graciously as could be expected.
I'm sure he would have loved to returned volleys with Florio, but he's smart enough to realize that there's nothing Florio would have loved more than to been recognized and called out by Rodgers. No, Rodgers just seems to say the right things...boring things, and sometimes even so-PC-you-wonder-if-Jeff-Blumb-has-a-teleprompter things...but they are the right things.
To that end, I am going to assign an adjective to Aaron Rodgers that I do not throw about carelessly. It is the asset I value highest in my own personal and professional life, and am proud to assign it to our quarterback.
Aaron Rodgers. Integrity.