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"Imagine trying to learn something as difficult as an entire system of plays, and taking the knowledge and making decisions on what to call and where to throw, all within split seconds, and doing it with people running at you trying to knock your ass off." – Mike Holmgren

Mike Holmgren has coached three teams to the Super Bowl, and is broadly viewed as one of the foremost experts on the quarterback position. And as the above quote makes plain, quarterbacking on the NFL level requires remarkable intelligence.

Quarterbacks must not only memorize playbooks that are the size of phone books, they must also do so in split second fashion. There’s no time for deliberation on an extraordinarily dangerous NFL field. The latter is the path toward injured reserve.

Readers might keep this in mind amid all the ink being spilled about Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in relation to his recent positive Covid-19 diagnosis. Rodgers is so much more than a great athlete, as are his NFL contemporaries. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

For now, the focus of this piece is on the endless critiques of Rodgers over his alleged deception related to the coronavirus vaccine. Supposedly Rodgers “lied” when asked if he’d been vaccinated. Yet as my great friend Bob Reingold pointed out, the true deception was that of the reporter covering Rodgers. As reporters constantly remind us, it’s their job to “get the story.” But as evidenced by a lack of follow up to Rodgers’s response about being “immunized,” it seems the reporter wasn’t doing his. In Reingold’s words, the individual who asked Rodgers if he was vaccinated was the guilty one when it came to deception “because he could have replied, ‘yes or no please,’ but he didn’t want a no answer. Rodgers is too valuable to the league.” Amen.

As for countless other reporters and media members up in arms about Rodgers’s alleged faux pas, where were they when Rodgers answered as he did? Why didn’t they ask what hadn’t been asked? Their manufactured outrage in the present is nothing short of gag-inducing.

Some will respond that Rodgers should have told his initial inquisitor “none of your business.” Count yours truly in that camp. So many questions are off limits nowadays, and in particular personal questions, but somehow Rodgers was expected to be publicly forthright. There’s something wrong with that, but that’s another column.

Rodgers has been clear that his decision to not vaccinate was made with great deliberation, and after consultation with medical people whom he trusts. Rodgers made a decision for himself, and he’s being vilified for having done so. The self-righteously expressed anger is perhaps more offensive than the failure of members of the Fourth Estate to do their job. Think about it.

In thinking about it, fear not that this commentary will pivot to “my body, my choice.” To do so would be to shoot fish in a very crowded barrel. No doubt these decisions should be personal and private, but as we’ve seen with the coronavirus vaccine, belief among the high-and-mighty about privacy and choice is rather situational. So we won’t go there.

Instead, the pivot will be to Rodgers’s undeniable intelligence, and his promethean football intelligence. Implicit in all the vitriol directed Rodgers’s way is that he’s been unthinking about a spreading virus, and what to do about it. Can the critics be serious? Who among us understands risk better than Rodgers? In his case, he routinely drops back in search of open receivers fully aware that he’s risking much more than his bodily health as extraordinarily fast linebackers and defensive ends (often weighing in excess of 300 pounds) are in hot pursuit in hopes of knocking him out of the game, or worse.

All of the above is important in consideration of how those not vaccinated are portrayed by those who are. “Unthinking,” “selfish,” and “science deniers” are three of many pejoratives that come to mind, but none can reasonably tar Rodgers with them. Once again, he understands risk intimately. Really, who among us would put our bodies on the line in the way Rodgers does weekly? Yet we’re talking about an alleged failure to get a jab….? Without knowing all that went through Rodgers’s mind as he chose not to vaccinate as the anointed would prefer him to, it would be foolish to presume that the approach was anything close to thoughtless.

After which, it’s not unreasonable to speculate that among other things Rodgers concluded that a 99%+ survival rate among the unvaccinated and infected was a small risk he was willing to take relative to the monstrous risks he takes with every snap of the ball. Life is about tradeoffs, and paths not taken. What scares you may not scare me, and vice versa. Even if you had the talent, would you risk your body as Rodgers does?

At which point Rodgers has been clear about how his brain trust concluded that he had allergies to some of the U.S.-produced vaccines on offer. The latter would have been reason enough not vaccinate, only for the question about “side effects” (my main question in Chapter 16 of my book about the coronavirus meltdown, When Politicians Panicked) related to the corona-vaccine to innocently come up. About side-effects, are vaccine proponents certain there are none? Are medical experts? Can we believe them? They confidently said vaccination would be just that, except that Rodgers’s alma mater (Cal) just canceled its upcoming game against USC because of a corona-breakout among the Bears. Last week they could only field a team of 24. 99% of Cal’s players are vaccinated…

You see, experts can be wrong. They’ve certainly been wrong in the last 20 months, but despite this, despite knowledge not having aged well at all, one of the greatest quarterbacks ever is being criticized for deciding against one risk related to his body while taking much greater ones with that same body on a daily basis. Something’s wrong with this picture. Reporters might know this if they were reporting.

This article originally ran on realclearmarkets.com.

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