I am not thrilled with the NFL. I also am not wild about Pop Warner/Youth Football, where little kids are yelled at by former failed players who coach them into running into each other before puberty sets in. Big time college ball is also pretty brutally dehumanizing.

But I do deeply love football. 

I was an adequate low-level high school player, and a captain of my team, and I was an assistant coach at a public high school for seven seasons, once going all the way to a State Championship game. When we let our son play at 13, he was a passable player for a great high school program, then a very good Division 3 college player.

Despite my devotion to these most basic types of football, and my uneasiness with the sport’s elite versions, the Green Bay Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is simply awesome. Here is what Wikipedia says better than I could:

Rodgers is the NFL’s all-time regular season career passer rating leader and is the only quarterback to have a regular season career passer rating of over 100. Rodgers is fifth all-time in postseason career passer rating, has the best touchdown-to-interception ratio in NFL history at 4.13, holds the league’s lowest career interception percentage at 1.6 percent and the highest single-season passer rating record of 122.5. Due to the fact that Rodgers is the NFL’s all-time regular season career passer rating leader, and his overall high level of play, Rodgers is considered by some sportscasters and players to be one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

Rodgers and I share the unquestioned love of a violently intense game. But we also share being part of families that failed at the love God gave them to share. This only became loudly public this week when Aaron’s brother, Jordan, publicly called him out on Twitter for missing “the fundamental first step of compassion” by not calling his evacuating parents during the epic wildfire in California.

Apparently Superstar All-Pro MVP Aaron Rodgers has a fully dysfunctional family. He has not spoken to his parents Ed and Darla Rodgers for the last 4 years. Including during the devastating forests fires in their hometown. We cannot know for sure, as this burst of public communication is rare. When it comes to describing their relationship with their son, Ed Rodgers notes, “It’s hard to tell sometimes.”

A former girlfriend of Aaron’s, actress Olivia Munn, noted last year that the Rogers’ family was trying to use his fame to their own ends. Whatever the depth of pain and recrimination, the failure of love to sustain a family is common, and was the hallmark of my own upbringing—for all of us. The most natural emotion in the most intimate of circumstances was missing between almost all of those involved. Estrangement was not strange; it was the norm.

The effects of love’s loss from the earliest moments of memory are not fixable. Like Rodgers (and his brother), I devoted my high school life to football, but my parents were in their own places, and my siblings were also damaged in the wake of a “complicated” family. Rogers’ former college coach Craig Rigsbee remembers a fan coming to their table at a restaurant and lavishing praise upon Aaron. Flustered, Rodgers said that she was making him uncomfortable: “For all you know, I could be the biggest creep in the world.”

I wonder where he heard that first.

This is not schadenfreude for me. It is all too well known. My father loved the game he never played, and watched New York Giants football every Sunday, without fail, through the blue haze of his Kent cigarette smoke. But when his son devoted himself to the game (wearing five-pound ankle weights for two full years), his lack of much connection with me meant he saw me play but once in four years. In the one game he did attend, he was shocked when I set the school record for tackles.

source: People

I know that his absent love drove me to prove that I was worthy of what he could not offer so the results of my motivation were possible and made this one visit memorable. For me anyway.

From all accounts Aaron Rodgers is a good person. He tries to do the good works that are incumbent upon the famous, including the fire relief that his brother saw as hypocritically outrageous. But sometimes the pain of wrecked love is insurmountable by common sense, let alone simulations of traditional relationships to keep up appearances.  

Amid the screaming fame machine that is the NFL, I pray that God is known by them, as he was to me all those years ago. But in an environment of such pressure, focus, and accomplishment, the noise is overwhelming, for everyone involved. Rodgers noted in People Magazine, “I find it inappropriate to talk about family matters,” so we will never know what he is living through.

The superhumans of the National Football League exist on the glowing screens of inhumanity, and that is why I feel no love for their world. But I do feel for Aaron Rogers, even if he may be “the biggest creep in the world.”  But I know that, for me, those 45 years ago, God turned out to be unavoidable, despite my best efforts. Love without any history or qualification, let alone celebrity, cannot be denied forever. And that is for all of us.