Theodore McDarrah, Contributor
Sept. 15, 2023
Over 22 million people tuned in for the first installation of Monday Night Football of the 2023 season of the National Football League. It was the most watched Monday Night Football game of all time.
The first Monday night game, 53 years ago in September of 1970, featured the New York Jets only two seasons removed from a Super Bowl victory. Fast forward to last Monday, the game was also highlighted by the Jets, who are now 55 seasons removed from a Super Bowl victory. This is part of the reason why so many tuned into the game: that miserable streak could finally be ending. During the offseason, the Jets made a huge splash by acquiring quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers spent the first 18 years of his NFL career on the Green Bay Packers. He began as a backup to the legendary quarterback Brett Favre, but when given the chance turned himself into a legend in northeast Wisconsin, winning four MVP awards, one Super Bowl, and over 300 million dollars. Although now approaching 40 years old, many believed that if there was anyone up to the task of bringing the bottom-feeding New York Jets back to the top of the football mountain, it was him.
Throughout the offseason, it appeared that these believers were right. Almost all of Rodgers’s new teammates and coaches gushed over his skills and leadership qualities. He was like no one else that had ever stepped foot in the Jets facilities.
The belief ended there. When the season actually began, Rodgers never even completed a pass for his new team. Only four minutes into the first game, he suffered a season - and potentially career - ending injury; he tore his achilles tendon. Surely now, the hope, guidance, and leadership that came with Aaron Rodgers must now be found somewhere else.
Rodgers and Achilles
For the Jets players and fans, the story surrounding Aaron Rodgers and his Jets career is tragic. So much so, it is easy to see some similarities between this drama and some of the original tragedies of Antiquity. Given the quarterback’s injury, the story of Achilles is one that is all too obvious.
Achilles was the greatest warrior of the Trojan War between Greece and Troy. Along with Odysseus and his wooden horse, it is Achilles and his sword that led the Greeks to victory. Furthermore, he was arguably the greatest warrior in all of Greek mythology, in which he is a constant character. But even without much knowledge of Greek mythology, most people know Achilles thanks to the term ‘Achilles heel,’ which is also a tendon of the body, as Jets fans are well aware.
Achilles was the son of Thetis, a goddess of the sea, and Peleus, king of Phthia, making him a demi-god. According to the story, Thetis dipped the baby Achilles into the River Styx, which circles the Underworld. Engulfed in the water of this holy river, Achilles becomes almost completely invincible, except for his ankle (or heel) because this is where his mother held him, and so it was the only part of his body that was not immersed in the water. Then, during the Trojan War, Paris, the prince of Troy, targeted the great warrior’s heel in battle to eventually kill him.
For the modern NFL player and fan, Aaron Rodgers is one of the greatest warriors, if not the greatest. He seemed invincible, winning at the biggest stage while also putting up extraordinary statistics year after year after year. Until, just like that, his achilles heel is found and it is all over.
Achilles is a central character of Homer’s Iliad. Yet the myth of the warrior and the River Styx is not found in the epic, nor is the death of Achilles at the hands of Paris. These have been added after the fact, by other writers and orators who tried to fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle that is the story of Achilles.
All we know from Homer about Achilles is his glory and leadership, which remains when we meet him in the Underworld during Oddesues’s journey home in the Odyssey, which is well after the Iliad and the alleged killing.
Theories about Aaron Rodgers future will be a main talking point for the morning shows and water cooler conversations going forward. People will try and create their own narrative of what happened. Generally, those at the top of their games have the constant obstacle of others trying to tear them down. And sometimes, the others do find the weaknesses, the achilles, but that shouldn’t take the wind out of the sails.
All we can truly say about Achilles' end is that he was still able to guide Odysseus on his journey. There is plenty of unknown in the odyssey of being a Jets fan, but it is irresponsible to write Rodgers off as a leader, and the facts of the situation must only be heeded by those involved. In reality, this quarterback may have never been in a better position to lead an NFL team.
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