Back in 2005, when Aaron Rodgers “fell” to the 24th pick of the NFL Draft, he had this to say about how disappointed he was that the San Francisco 49ers passed him over for Alex Smith with the first pick overall: “Not as disappointed as the 49ers will be that they didn’t draft me.”
The wonderful/unnerving thing about Aaron Rodgers is that this slight — the reason for that chip on his shoulder — is so silly. Unlike Tom Brady, who dropped to the sixth round, Rodgers barely fell at all. He was a first-round pick, going to a team that believed in him enough that they wanted him to take over for one of the best quarterbacks ever (Brett Favre). Rodgers has never failed: he was great in high school, he was great in college, and, after sitting behind Favre, he’s been great in the pros.
Rodgers is a guy who bristles about being considered short despite being 6’2”, which no one really considers short — he has an almost Nixonian pathology, a universe of slights both imagined and not that fuel his tremendous play. Richard Nixon’s extreme, infamous paranoia caused him to record his conversations and illegally cheat in an election he was bound to win; despite being equipped with massive power, he felt persecuted. Just like Rodgers. (Except Rodgers isn’t evil and “playing hard at football” is a lot less destructive than “peeing on the Constitution.”)
In the common telling, Nixon landslid his way to the presidency over Hubert Humphrey in 1968 by demonizing anti-war protesters and hippies in order to build support for his stern, conservative candidacy. And what was the world capital of hippie-ism? That’s right, San Francisco. Where Rodgers is playing tomorrow. (A week after defeating the Vikings, who play home games in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.) Tune in at 8 pm to find out whether the Niners are Aaron Rodgers’ George McGovern, or his Watergate.
This is a young Richard Nixon in his football uniform. Look what number he’s wearing.