Those who remember the anecdote about San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana spotting comedian John Candy in the crows just as Montana was driving his team to victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII will appreciate Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers' ability to be aware of the entertainment around him just before Super Bowl XLV began. Rodgers, the MVP of the game in which his team beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-25, told radio station 540 ESPN Milwaukee this week that he was well aware that singer Christina Aguilera butchered the national anthem by omitting a line.
"No doubt about it," Rodgers said. "First of all the chick from 'Glee' [singer Lea Michele] killed the first song [God Bless America]. She should have sang the anthem too. I knew because it was the Super Bowl…I don't like standing in the front row because I don't like being or having that camera right in front of my face. I know I'm on the bazillion-foot Jumbotron, so I'm going to stand behind some people who maybe aren't the most TV recognizable names and see if I can blend in. So I kind of went and hid in the back.
"I don't know who I was standing next to, but she [Aguilera] starts singing it and in most of the stadiums they have the words up on the board, kind of up-and-above the singer, so she can tell that she screwed up," Rodgers continued. "She screwed up and I knew it and something was off. I'm looking around going, 'Does anyone else realize this?' I don't think they had because I don't think the people were listening, but I knew something was off, so I kind of tapped…I think it was Diyral Briggs next to me and said 'Hey did you hear that?"
The subpar version of the song certainly didn't affect Rodgers, who completed 24 of 39 passes for 304 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions in a bravura performance that would have been even better had his receivers not flubbed several easy catches. And according to Rodgers, that wasn't the only pregame distraction. .
"We walked out for the coin toss and at the Super Bowl there are these long TV timeouts, so we go out for the coin toss. I'm one of the captains," he told the same station. "There's five of us. The Steelers' guys are standing over there and we're standing looking at each other for a good three minutes. Well over to the left, about 10 camera men have been trying to get in place for the best shot and two of them are fighting. They're yelling at each other in different languages, flipping each other off and one guy is flipping him off and the other guy below him is just taking all of these pictures of him. The guy above is flipping off the little guy down below, who is kind of squeezed in to get the lowest spot … They're both screaming at the other and taking pictures of each other for a good minute and a half and I'm tapping [linebacker] A.J. [Hawk] like, "Look at that over there! Look at those guys!' It was unbelievable."
Proof positive that the circus around the Super Bowl can be a distraction to all but the most dialed-in of players. It's a credit to Rodgers that he not only kept his head when all around him were obviously losing theirs, but kept a sense of humor about the whole thing.
Joe Montana, scanning the crowd for comedians all those years ago, would have been proud.