Week of September 1, 2017

You big, fat winner.

Aaron Rodgers: More Than a Quarterback

Aaron Rodgers is my homeboy. Let’s start with that. In his first game at Cal, he came off the bench. His first pass was a deep out and the ball seemed to explode out of his hand. I told a friend he was going to win the Heisman one day. I was wrong, but he did win multiple NFL MVPs and a Super Bowl MVP, so I feel vindicated. I’m also very proud that Rodgers went to Cal because he’s not a bimbo who only cares about football, unlike some other quarterbacks.

Rodgers grew up in a devout Christian home. After he left Cal, there were rumors that the Berkeley environment made him uncomfortable. For a few years, this fact prevented me from fully embracing him as my favorite player. But as it does with many of us, time allowed Rodgers to mature and grow, and to see the world in a new light. In this interview, Rodgers opens up about his enlightenment, which occurred shortly after he became the starting quarterback in Green Bay. Rodgers talks about losing his Christian faith, his broadening acceptance of all people, his recognition that life exists beyond football, and his daily struggle with these things and more. The best and most surprising part comes right at the opening:

After the game, Aaron Rodgers got on the bus. It was unusually cold in Arlington during the week leading up to Super Bowl XLV; a winter storm had barreled into Texas, blanketing Cowboys Stadium with so much snow that slabs of ice cascaded from the roof. When the game against the Steelers ended, the team was showered with confetti, then the players trudged down to the bus, where they sat for a while in the bowels of the stadium before heading back to their hotel. Someone brought the Vince Lombardi Trophy on board, and the players passed it around like a collection plate, each taking a moment to palm the sterling silver.

As his teammates chattered away, the quarterback sat and listened and thought about the plays he had made that night: three touchdowns, zero interceptions, 304 yards. The bus rolled along, and he ran it all back in his mind, then pressed rewind and visualized his entire career, retracing the steps he had taken from Chico, California, to Arlington, from beleaguered backup to Super Bowl MVP. As he reflected on the sacrifices and the slights, he wondered whether it was all worth it, and then he felt something unexpected — not regret or fulfillment but a different sensation, like a space had opened inside of him. He thought about life and football and everything he had invested in his sport, and a jarring realization sprang into his mind.

I hope I don’t just do this.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a professional athlete admit to questioning the importance of achieving the pinnacle of his sport moments after doing just that. Rodgers also discusses the Kaepernick situation, using the platform he enjoys not to duck and hide, but to state authoritatively that Kaepernick should be on a roster and isn’t because of his politics. I can’t recommend this story enough. -TOB

Source: The Search For Aaron Rodgers”, Mina Kimes, ESPN The Magazine (08/30/2017)

PAL: Rodgers and I are about the same age (he’s 33, I’m 35). The idea of living my life with one interest is absurd, so I can understand a smart, curious dude setting out to formulate his own way to live instead of putting the blinders on and being a one-dimensional human football throwing machine.

Having said that…

…I got to go at Rodgers a bit. It’s my duty to balance out TOB’s mancrush.

It’s hard for me not to laugh at this Deep Thoughts by Aaron Rodgers while the article is buoyed by glamour shots of him in a leather jacket in holding himself in a corner against some austere, expensive, rich dude walls.

Aaron Rodgers is a late-blooming hipster. Single origin coffee. Getting into the organic super market thing. Going to local rock shows in LA. Defining his own concept of faith and spirituality. Talking about not wanting to talk about things. Being on Instagram but not sure if he likes being on Instagram…COME ON, Dude. Aaron’s a 33 year-old hipster with too much money living in LA. No wonder no one notices him when he goes out.

TOB: He’s a world treasure and you will respect him, even if he’s not perfect. Hell, who is?

PAL: I will have the last word.

Outdated History

Perspective. When TOB and I were talking about starting this digest over three years ago, that word came up a bit. In an era of immediacy, a little time and perspective goes a long way. That, and we weren’t willing to commit to daily posts. 

While most of what we share with you is fun, interesting, and ultimately insignificant sports writing, perspective still helps dial in appreciation just right, especially when we’re oftentimes sharing stories about the why instead of the what. We are inundated with the what every second of every day. The why needs a little time to breathe. 

We’ve made the joke a few times – Stick to Sports! And you might be asking what any of the words you’ve read above have to do with sports. Well, Charles P. Pierce makes perhaps the most compelling argument that sports are inseparable from all the heavy, impassioned debates on the history of racism that even recently have led to outright violence.

The Unite the Right rally began – or was at least billed – as a protest of the removal a Robert E. Lee statue. In the wake of Charlottesville, Red Sox owner John Henry told the press that he is haunted by the legacy of former Red Sox owner and noted racist Thomas Yawkey. The street behind the left field foul line is named after him, and Henry is open to changing the name. It should be noted, the debate about renaming the street has been going on for years.

Pierce uses this as a jumping off point to his column to his assertion that the world of sports has oftentimes dealt with outdated history long before our politicians or communities do, and not always successfully. To use Pierce’s words, while some may call it sanitizing history, he calls it fumigating history.   

[O]rganized sports have been wrestling with this profound question in public for longer than the political world has. Thousands of high school and college programs around the country have dropped their Native American nicknames and mascots over the past 40 years.

The battle flag of the Confederate army, revived in the 1950’s as a symbol of resistance to the Civil Rights Movement, has been another regular flashpoint. Something of a tipping point, however, was reached two years ago when NASCAR, born in the South and created by one of George Corley Wallace’s first political sugar daddies, banned the flag from all of the infields at all of its tracks.

Only now is the political world truly confronting the question of why this country should honor men who were hell-bent on destroying it so that they could continue to own other human beings. That race has been the fuel for these controversies is so plain that it hardly needs to be mentioned…These are healthy arguments to have. We understand ourselves better as a country and as a people, when we have them right out there in the open, loudly and with great passion, and there’s a big one going on not very far from this keyboard. As I wrote somewhere else, this isn’t sanitizing history. It’s fumigating it.

…Tom Yawkey saved baseball in Boston, and for that, he deserves the plaque that hangs on the Fenway bricks. But he does not deserve a public street, the common property of all Boston citizens, to be named after him, any more than Jefferson Davis deserves to have a statue in the Capitol of the nation he sought to dismember. Sports got there first on this question and the industry of sports has not fully answered it yet to anyone’s satisfaction. (Washington Redskins? In 2017?) We cannot be true to our country’s history and slaves to our country’s poisonous myths.

I can only add that I strongly encourage you to read Pierce’s full article. For a blog that likes to share stories with some perspective, this one sure gives a healthy dose of just that.  – PAL

Source: Sports, Like The Rest Of The U.S., Still Struggles With The Legacy Of Racism”, Charles P. Pierce, SI (08/27/2017)

Mays and Mantle: Once Banned From Baseball

I’m a bit of a sports history buff. There are not many things anymore, especially on this level, that stump me or leave me baffled. But I randomly came across this tidbit this week: In the 1970s and 1980s, Wille Freakin Mays and Mickey Freakin Mantle were banned from baseball.

Yes, like Shoeless Joe and later Pete Rose. Mays and Mantle were not allowed to have any affiliation with baseball. Why? It is, of course, the stupidest reason ever. Having retired a few years prior, Mays and Mantle were hard up for cash and took jobs as ambassadors for Atlantic City casinos. Each was paid $100,000 per year (not bad for the late-70s). Then-MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn decided this merited a ban from baseball. Incredible. Thankfully, in 1985, new Commissioner Peter Ueberroth lifted the ban. In doing so, Ueberroth noted both the changing times and the utter hypocrisy of Kuhn’s ban:

”The world changes. We are going to look for stronger, more clarified guidelines to keep gambling and baseball apart. I went through the files, and I found there were people who owned baseball teams and casinos at the same time. There are all kinds of items that could be revised.”

Kuhn was asked about the lifting of the ban, and stuck to his guns while accepting Ueberroth’s decision. Which, whatever. What an asshat. -TOB

Source: “Mays, Mantle Reinstated by Baseball Commissioner”, Michael Martinez, New York Times (03/19/1985)

PAL: How do you say no to this offer when you need some cash? All they did was make some appearances, shake some hands, and collect checks. My favorite tidbit from the story was learning one of the challenges to Mays ‘working’ at the casino was his garden back in the Bay Area was suffering. Willie Mays had a garden…that he tended to!

Also, Pete Rose is such a turd.

TOB: I loved that, too. Seems like an old man thing. He was in his late-50’s, which tells me my backyard has another 20 years before I turn an eye to it. Sorry, Suze.

To Play a Rookie QB, or Not to Play a Rookie QB

Increasingly, NFL teams have immediately thrown rookie quarterbacks into the fire, and letting them sink or swim. This is not ideal for the player. Generally, if a team drafts a quarterback in the first round, it means the whole team is not very good. But because the team is not good, and because the GM and the coach’s job security depends on turning the team around quickly, there is incentive for the coach and GM to see if they’ve hit the jackpot by starting the quarterback. If they don’t play the rookie QB, they’ve just used a high draft pick on someone who won’t make their bad team any better, and they aren’t long for their jobs. If they do play the rookie QB and the guy isn’t ready and plays terribly, the coach and the GM will lose their job, anyways. Might as well hope the guy is great so you look like a genius. The future of the team and the future of the talented but raw QB, be damned.

This article is well done, getting the quarterbacks’ perspective on the effects of the decision to play or not play a rookie QB, including guys like Aaron Rodgers, Phillip Rivers, and Carson Palmer, who sat their first season or two or three who see it one way, and the veterans they replaced, and who were tasked with mentoring their successors, who see it another. Really interesting stuff. -TOB

Source: The Strange Life of an NFL Team’s QB of the Future—and the Guy Starting Ahead of Him”, Robert Mays, The Ringer (08/30/2017)

PAL: Jake Plummer is the MVP of this article:

Plummer used the final month of that season to soak in the quieter moments of life as an NFL quarterback. He saw it as a chance to eat actual meals before games again, and during pregame warmups he would play “football golf” with practice squad quarterback Preston Parsons, kicking the ball toward a target and counting the strokes. On Saturday nights, he’d dig into the beers left out in the hotel for coaches. “I’d sit there and have three or four pops,” Plummer says. “Guys were pissed off at me. I’d be drinking beers, and they were just like, ‘You suck, man.’ Well, they benched me. It wasn’t my decision, so I’m having a Bud Light.”

Video of the Week: 

PAL Song of the Week: Fake Laughs – ‘Melt’

Like what you’ve read? Let us know by following this blog (on the right side, up near the top), or:

Email: 123sportslist@gmail.com

“You may look around and see two different groups of people. White collar, blue collar. But I don’t see it that way. You know why not? Because I am “collar blind”.

-Michael Scott

One thought on “Week of September 1, 2017

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