So the New York Times’ cover page profile Monday of Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers’ charmed quarterback, has nary a mention of the young man’s strong ties to Mendocino County.
The focus is on his early days in Chico, the Sacramento Valley college town where I once lived. Truthfully I was disappointed with even that coverage because there's no mention of the downtown bars my long-haired pals and I used to haunt, or for that matter any note of glorious Bidwell Park where the only athletics any of us engaged in was smoking pot and skinny dipping at Bear Hole.
Instead the Times led with a vignette about a Chico high school’s marquee touting the fact that a former varsity football player will be playing in Sunday’s Super Bowl. Chico folks “do not try to act California cool,” opined Times writer Karen Crouse after noting Aaron Rodgers name isn't on the marquee.
Too bad because Aaron Rodgers this week is the talk of the Ukiah Valley, where he attended Oak Manor Elementary School in the early 1990s. Here the small town boy turned big league football star is held in high regard by a host of family and friends.
Rodger's Ukiah ties are strongest with maternal grandparents Barbara and Chuck Pittman. The Pittmans have lived in the same house on West Mill Street since 1951.
“We’re pretty rooted here,” said Barbara Pittman.
Not surprisingly “grandma” and “grandpa” on Sunday will be in the Texas stadium where family and friends plan to cheer on Rodgers and the Packers.
“We’re proud of Aaron, but we’re proud of all of our grandchildren,” said Barbara Pittman.
The bond with grandson Aaron was forged early, especially after married daughter Darla and husband Ed brought the six-year-old and his two brothers back to Mom's hometown. Rodgers and his family lived in Ukiah for four years before they moved to Chico where his father, a former Mendocino College football coach, opened a chiropractic office.
Rodgers told an ESPN Miwaulkee columnist last fall that “I always call my grandma and my grandpa before the game, as I’m driving to the stadium."
Rodgers said he did the same when he was quarterback at Cal in his college years. His grandparents made it to just about every high school game he ever played, but the Pittmans aversion to flying kept them from many of Rodgers' college games.
The interview hints at Aaron Rodgers’ rural Northern California values – he drives a Toyota Tundra truck and two of his favorite television shows are “The Office” and “Entourage” - and an astonishing display of honesty for a guy who spends a lot of time in a professional football locker room.
His favorite movie? “The Princess Bride.”
“I’ve caught some flak for saying that in the past, but it’s still my favorite movie” Rodgers told ESPN.
His closest friend is his older brother, Luke. “My brother, he’s a guy with a huge heart, and he always sees the best in people.”
Finally, when his days of football glory are over, Rodgers said “I hope people say that I was as good a person as I was a player. And I hope to be a great player.”
To be honest I don’t care who wins the Super Bowl. My family and I are into baseball, and we’re still basking in the glow of the Giants’ World Series win.
But I think this Rodgers guy may be another Buster Posey. And I hope he scores big Sunday.
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