Why did Aaron Rodgers have to dive headfirst into the Covid culture war?

Malachy Clerkin: Quarterback entitled to own choice but comments leave sour taste

I can't believe Aaron Rodgers has ruined Aaron Rodgers on me. I might never forgive him. He took my favourite quarterback and dragged him into the Covid culture wars. There are no winners here. There is no upside. This is terrible.

A quick primer for the vaguely interested: Rodgers is the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers. More than that, the people who know these things - or at least the ones who yak about it on podcasts - have him down as being in or around one of the 10 best quarterbacks in history. Top dozen anyway.

I obviously don’t know enough about American football to credibly judge any of that. But I know what I like. And what I like is sitting up on a Sunday night and watching the Packers down six points with a minute-and-a-half left on the clock and one time-out and Rodgers needing to go the length of the field to win. Give me that three times a season and life is peachy.

The wonder of Aaron Rodgers isn't just that he has done it so often, it's that he has made it all look so unspeakably cool

A game-winning drive by any quarterback is one of the purest pleasures in sport. So much has to go right. Nothing can go wrong. The mental gymnastics involved, the precise calibrations of each play required, the bluff and double-bluff of the opposition defence - all of it is high-wire sorcery, carried out while 17-stone monsters are trying to put you in hospital.


It’s the ultimate example of why sport is such a blessed escape from the petty grind of the outside world. You can’t spoof a game-saving drive. There are no alternative facts. No conspiracy theories. No Twitter, no Reddit, none of that stuff. There is a winner and a loser and if you don’t spend the next 90 seconds showing you are one of a tiny handful of people on the planet who have the goods, the loser is you.

Unspeakably cool

The wonder of Aaron Rodgers isn't just that he has done it so often, it's that he has made it all look so unspeakably cool. There's a casualness in the way he leads his team down the field, an unpanicked control of the situation. Every NFL play is four seconds of whirling violence - threatened and actual - and yet Rodgers always looks like he is thoroughly unruffled by the whole scene.

The American novelist Paul Gallico began life as a sports columnist for the New York Daily News back in the 1920s. In a piece about Jack Dempsey one time he wrote that all the great legends of the ring are built upon the picture that the average man has of himself as he would like to be.

“If we could, we would all be gentle, soft-spoken creatures, tender with women, cool and even-tempered, but once aroused - ‘WHAP! - a lightning-like left or right to the jaw. Down goes the truck-driver or footpad or hoodlum. We mentally dust our hands, readjust our cravat, smile pleasantly, step over the body of the prostrate victim, and carry on. Just like that.”

Gallico wrote that passage nearly 90 years ago but you wouldn’t have had much trouble applying it to the appeal Rodgers has had for most of his career. Famously, in 2014, he told Packers fans to “R-E-L-A-X” after a patchy start to the season and went on to win 11 out of the next 13 games. That was the Aaron Rodgers you couldn’t but love. Clooney in a chinstrap.

And now? Let’s check in with Aaron Rodgers now.

"Aaron Rodgers invokes abortion, MLK Jr and thanks Joe Rogan in rant over why he's not vaccinated."

"Aaron Rodgers Rips 'Woke PC Culture'"

“Anti-vaxxer Aaron Rodgers’ spectacular fall from grace happened in record time.”

“Health care company ends relationship with Packers star Aaron Rodgers.”

Ah, Jaysus. No, no, no. Please no. Don’t do it, Aaron Rodgers. Please don’t drag Aaron Rodgers down into the weeds of all of this.

Too late.

This stuff is all so absolutely pointless. The tyranny of woolly language, the online scattergun of vitriol - none of it gets anyone anywhere

Rodgers, in a move that we really all should have seen coming, decided he was too intelligent to get vaccinated against Covid. Instead, he had a homeopathic treatment and when asked back in the summer whether he had been vaccinated, he replied, “Yes, I have been immunised.” He made several attempts to get the NFL to accept that his treatment counted as a vaccination but they wouldn’t allow it.

Personal health choices

All of which is his business, obviously enough. As with Callum Robinson in this part of the world a few weeks back, it doesn't do any of us any good at all to be pronouncing on anyone else's personal health choices. Whether Rodgers is vaccinated, immunised or does a dance around an ancient druid's chalice every night to deal with the Covid issue isn't going to make a tuppence of difference to any of our lives.

But the culture wars stuff is enough to make your brain throb. Regardless of whatever side you fall down on, all this point-scoring and nit-picking is so unbelievably tedious. You’ve done your own research, Aaron Rodgers? Cool! Enjoy it! Bathe in it as you would a pond of asses’ milk. Just don’t weaponise Aaron Rodgers in a screed against the dreaded woke mob on the basis of it.

This stuff is all so absolutely pointless. The tyranny of woolly language, the online scattergun of vitriol - none of it gets anyone anywhere. Any suggestion that maybe restrictions are a bit much is enough to get you called an anti-vaxxer. Any expression of discomfort with people colouring outside the lines and you’re a woke ivory-tower snowflake.

It’s Long Covid of the public square, its symptoms baked into public discussion long after the initial sniffle has cleared up. And now Aaron Rodgers has gone and got Aaron Rodgers caught up in it all.

What a dose.