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CBSSports.com National Columnist

Two-second video clip doesn't at all capture Rodgers

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I just saw the story about Aaron Rodgers and the cancer patient, and I'm crying. I'm guessing you've seen the story about Rodgers and the cancer patient, too -- but you're not crying. I'm guessing you're disgusted. With Rodgers. For dissing the cancer patient.

Incredibly, this has become one of the enduring plotlines of these playoffs: Green Bay's quarterback disses the cancer patient. The story is out there and it won't go away, not with the Packers playing Chicago on Sunday for a spot in the Super Bowl.

Aaron Rodgers is a great guy off the field, despite what you think you saw in a two-minute YouTube clip. (AP)  
Aaron Rodgers is a great guy off the field, despite what you think you saw in a two-minute YouTube clip. (AP)  
If you don't know, it happened at an airport Saturday where the Packers were flying to Atlanta. As Rodgers walks through the terminal, he approaches a woman holding out her hat -- revealing her partially bald head -- and walks past. We wrote about it Sunday at CBSSports.com. I tweeted that link myself, posing the question, "Cancer patient snub?"

On the blog Deadspin.com, a post headlined, "So, did Aaron Rodgers really snub a cancer patient" generated 21,000 views in hours. The video is everywhere. See it for yourself, then run to the nearest message board to call Rodgers every bad word you can think of.

Or if you have a blog yourself, write a post called, "Aaron Rodgers disses cancer patient." It's OK, you won't be alone. A prominent NFL blogger used his pulpit to tear Rodgers to pieces after he saw the video.

Me, I'm in pieces here. Literally, I'm writing this with tears running down my face. Because I just saw the story about Aaron Rodgers and the cancer patient.

No, not the one about the autograph at the airport. Not that one.

This one. About a charity function for Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer (MACC), where Rodgers is on the board of directors. This is the story of Aaron Rodgers and another cancer patient, a little girl named Cheri. She's dead. Rodgers was at the MACC event, trying to raise money to save someone else's daughter, when Cheri's father asked him to autograph a football.

The father asked him to make it out to Cheri.

Rodgers thought about it, then wrote a sentence that left people there in tears:

To Cheri the angel. Save me a spot -- Aaron Rodgers

Understand something: That's Aaron Rodgers. The guy in the airport, dissing the cancer patient? That's not Aaron Rodgers -- and I'm not convinced he was dissing that cancer patient in the first place.

One danger of journalism, even a seemingly black-and-white video, is the occasional lack of context. You and I watched the video of Rodgers walking past a woman dressed in cancer-fighting pink, her head mostly bald, as she held a hat for him to sign. That portion of the video lasts two seconds. One, two, it's over. Boom.

Maybe you're smart enough to see those two seconds, and none of the minutes or even days that came before or after, and judge Aaron Rodgers. Me, I'm not that smart. For example, it took me four viewings before I noticed the tiny white cords coming out of Rodgers' ears. He was most likely listening to something, which means he couldn't hear the woman in pink as he hurried through the airport, just finished with security, his shoes back on and his phone again in his pocket. He had a team official at his side, and an NFC playoff game in 24 hours.

The man was preoccupied.

Two seconds. That's what you saw. You're going to judge Aaron Rodgers based on those two seconds? Not me, and I'm not crying anymore. Now I'm angry, because what happened to Aaron Rodgers -- yes, to him, because he's a victim here -- was wrong. I'm as guilty as anyone, now that I think of it, because my tweet wasn't innocent. I wasn't merely posing a question, as I self-servingly wrote a few paragraphs ago. I was spreading the story as far as my Twitter feed could spread it:

Look at Aaron Rodgers, everyone! Look!

Shame on me. I feel especially small after doing some research into Rodgers, trying to find out who this guy is. I mean, I know who he was on Sunday. He was Joe Montana, if not better, going 31 for 36 for 366 yards and three touchdowns. His 86.1-percent completion rate was second-best in NFL playoff history for a 300-yard game.

But who is Aaron Rodgers, really? That's what I researched after seeing that video from the airport, and I even stacked the deck against him. I Googled the phrases "Aaron Rodgers" and "cancer" and came up with more stories -- but not stories like the two-second clip from the airport. These were stories with context, like the one from the MACC event with the signed football, or the one from two Christmases ago when the Packers invited 75 kids from the Boys & Girls Club to a local bowling alley for soda, pizza and bowling with players. All of it free, of course. Before the event, the Packers called back and said they could accommodate more kids, so make it 100. At the event the kids were surprised with $100 each to shop for presents, accompanied by various Packers.

One was Aaron Rodgers.

He funded the whole thing himself.

And never told anyone.

That story is from 2009, but it didn't start to circulate for 12 months. Why? Because Rodgers never told the media. He was trying to help some kids, not himself.

Oh, and one more thing I found in my Aaron Rodgers research. You know that woman from the airport, the cancer patient he blew off? Turns out, she was at the airport a week earlier, too. She was there when the Packers flew to Philadelphia for their first playoff game.

There were no cameras, so nobody saw the real story of Aaron Rodgers and the cancer patient. The one where he stops and signs her autograph.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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