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This is about football.
You surely know football, our national pastime, the 900-pound gorilla of American sports. Stadiums that are used just seven or eight times per year are the most-iconic buildings on university campuses.
Without bowl games, New Year’s would merely be the start of a new year. Without the Packers, Green Bay would merely be, well, Green Bay.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has six fewer Super Bowl wins than Tom Brady’s seven, but Rodgers easily is the most-compelling person in his sport.
Last year, Rodgers was a guest host on “Jeopardy!” for two weeks, launched a book club, and announced his engagement to actress Shailene Woodley when few knew they were even a couple. They have since broken up, if you’re keeping score.
None of that, though, got nearly as much attention as Rodgers promoting unproven treatments to COVID-19 and explaining his reasoning for not being vaccinated. It was hot-button stuff, to say the least.
Last week, Rodgers spoke on a podcast about going on an ayahuasca retreat to Peru in 2020. For those who somehow were unaware, ayahuasca is a beverage native to South America used for religious, ritualistic or medicinal purposes. It is hallucinogenic.
Rodgers said his retreat gave him “a deep and meaningful appreciation for life,” adding "I came back and knew I was never going to be the same."
Who’s to argue? He passed for 85 touchdowns and just nine interceptions over the two seasons that followed, and had two of his top four career seasons in quarterback rating.
So while they may not want to trust Rodgers as an expert on infectious diseases, other quarterbacks may now be asking themselves if they should go to Peru next offseason for some psychedelic brew that will lead to an altered state of consciousness.
The way Rodgers scrambles with confidence under severe pressure until he finds an open receiver, the way he leads two-minute offenses with such composure — wouldn’t quarterbacks who aspire to be better at such things want to expand their mindfulness?
Rodgers has gotten better in his late 30s. In football, that’s not how it’s supposed to work.
“I don’t really believe in coincidences at this point,” Rodgers said. “It’s the universe bringing things to happen when they’re supposed to happen.”
The universe isn’t real consistent about that if you ask me, but I digress.
Given our devotion to football and its stars, you would assume millions of fans and the entire state of Wisconsin will consider making their own Peruvian pilgrimages.
This, not ESPN’s imminent divorce from the Big Ten after four decades of wedded bliss, is the biggest football story of the moment. By the way, why do you think football is the favorite sport of only one nation on this planet?
It’s not because it was born in America. So was baseball, the No. 1 sport in Japan and South Korea. So was basketball, China’s most-beloved sport and a truly global game.
Then there’s soccer. Or as the rest of the world knows it, football. That’s the preferred sport in Europe, South America, Africa and Asia.
But we are where we are and our football is king here. Thus, we care when a quarterback praises a plant-based psychedelic substance or when a college conference changes its television partners.
Since we know the Big Ten’s games will always be on TV somewhere, let’s stay focused on the important stuff.
Earlier this year, Rodgers said he had gone through a 12-day program of cleansing and healing called Panchakarma.
“You're not really doing anything else,” he said. “You've gotta kind of turn everything else off. You're not working out, you're not straining or anything. It's kind of a re-centering. It not only heals you physically but I think it takes away mental stress.”
The opposite of cleansing takes place outside Lambeau Field before Packers home games. Fans wearing jerseys with Rodgers’ name and number fill up on sausages and cheese and beer.
It’s curious. They hail Rodgers as their messiah. Yet, they don’t wish to be saved.
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