As we get further along in these Cal athlete vs. Cal athlete “who would you rather’s” it’s become apparent that Cal seems to produce one legend at each position and then a whole bunch of mediocre guys. That is again the case with the tight end position. Tony Gonzalez is nearly unanimously thought of as the best tight end of all time. The second best tight end in program history is either Richard Rodgers, current mediocre Green Bay Packer, or Joe Rose, who briefly played for the Miami Dolphins in the 80s. Since people have heard of Richard Rodgers, we’ll use him as our point of reference. Obviously there’s no category Rodgers could beat Gonzalez in, including rapport with Aaron Rodgers — this interview with Gonzalez and Rodgers shows a better connection than Rodgers and Rodgers have ever shown on the field.
We could introduce some stupid hypothetical for Tony Gonzalez, like wearing a blindfold, or having to catch an overripe watermelon instead of a football. But that sort of thing is just a lazy crutch used by a bad writer. Instead, in order to level the playing field, we’re teaming up Richard Rodgers, the Cal tight end, with Richard Rodgers, the legendary 20th century composer of musicals, best known for his work with Oscar Hammerstein. For simplicity sake, we’ll refer to Cal Richard Rodgers as Cal Rodgers, and the musical Richard Rodgers as Music Rodgers.
Cal Rodgers is not famous, and the fact that most NFL fans know his name is entirely a testament to Aaron Rodgers’s ability to make mediocre players look great. He adds nothing to this discussion.
Tony Gonzalez is an NFL legend, but he’s not a quarterback, and hardly anyone who’s not a quarterback has achieved real fame coming from football. The list is pretty much Michael Strahan and O.J. Simpson. Gonzalez got a broadcasting job with CBS, so there are more people who recognize his face than would otherwise, but he’s still just short of famous. Let’s put it this way. If you talk to someone who doesn’t follow football at all, there’s a near-zero chance the name Tony Gonzalez will mean anything to them. I don’t follow musicals at all, save seeing 2007’s “Hairspray” in theaters, but if someone brings up “Rodgers & Hammerstein” in conversation, they’re famous enough for me to know that has something to do with musicals.
If you go to the Tony’s and start shouting about Tony Gonzalez, you’ll see a lot of blank stares. If you go to an NFL tailgate and bring up “Rodgers & Hammerstein,” you might get beat up, but they’ll have some idea of what you’re talking about. Music Rodgers wins this one for Team Rodgers.
Cal Rodgers is very good at catching footballs! Last year he posted a 2.4 percent drop rate, and had the second highest reception rate of anyone on the Packers that had more than 20 receptions. That’s impressive. But math majors are wrong, sometimes the numbers do lie. Drop rate has a huge amount to do with how a team uses the player and how often they are targeted. Tony Gonzalez is the greatest tight end of all time. We shouldn’t have any doubts about Tony being on top here. Music Rodgers has very little to offer here. He started playing piano at age six, and the possibility of hurting his fingers probably made catching footballs too risky of a proposition for the young prodigy. Unless he was a secret phenom, Gonzalez takes this category.
Work On Screen
Obviously, most of Music Rodger’s work was done on stage, but a huge amount of his musicals went on to have very successful film adaptations. “The Sound of Music” is as famous as movie musicals get, and “South Pacific,” “The King and I,” “Oklahoma!” and “Carousel” are all names I’ve heard of, which qualifies as a big success. But does it count if Rodgers never got in front of the cameras? Gonzalez certainly has. He’s booked guest appearances on shows like the Kansas City-based “Married to the Kellys,” “One Tree Hill” and “NCIS.” That’s an incredibly strong cameo list, the first two as himself and the third doing deep character work as “Special Agent Tony Francis”.
But Gonzalez went above and beyond, hosting 2015’s short-lived Discovery series “You Can’t Lick Your Elbow“, a show where Tony walks you through such crucial life skills as flexing your arm really hard and identifying poisons by smell. Tony might not be able to handle acting work where he’s not referred to as “Tony” but he gets credit for being brave enough to be on camera. Music Rodgers didn’t have the chops to go on “Perry Mason” as Assistant D.A. Richard Francis, and until Cal Rodgers makes an appearance on a special sports medicine episode of Grey’s Anatomy, Gonzalez gets another category.
Gonzalez is a 14-time Pro Bowler, 10-time First/Second-team All-Pro and was named to the NFL 2000s All-Decade team. He also co-founded a sports nutrition company called All-Pro Science and co-wrote a book called “The All-Pro Diet.” I don’t think either of those are officially recognized awards, but I give him credit for trying.
It would take an all-time awards performance for Team Rodgers to overcome this. Cal Rodgers was named to ESPNBoston’s MIAA All-State Boys’ Basketball team. He also won two high school football championships, so he technically has more rings than Gonzalez. That’s a start, but not nearly enough to move over Gonzalez
But hold on! Music Rodgers is coming in with the most elite award performance you can possibly have. The EGOT! That’s right, Music Rodgers touched every base on the self-serious award tour, cue the “30 Rock” references. For those of you not in the biz (show business), that’s an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. Unbelievable. But he’s not even done yet! Music Rodgers also brought home one Pulitzer Prize, only the second person ever to get that and an EGOT. And he’s the only one to add a second Pulitzer on top of that. Call it PPEGOT. And the list only includes one. Some people have trophy rooms. Music Rodgers needed a trophy house. He deserves a trophy for elite award show performance. Highly impressive come-from-behind win for Team Rodgers.
Having Played Basketball
Tony Gonzalez played basketball in college. He’s a tight end. He’s a tight end that played basketball in college. Cool. Cal Rodgers played basketball in high school. That’s one less “Having Played Basketball” points. They’re neck and neck, and if Music Rodgers included basketball in one of his musicals even tangentially, I’m ready to give the whole thing to Team Rodgers. I watched the 1945 movie “State Fair” which Rodgers and Hammerstein did music for, figuring there had to be one of those carnival competitions where you shoot a basketball into a narrow hoop. No such luck. The closest they got was tossing rings onto milk bottles, which is only .3
“Having Played Basketball” points. Music Rodgers really dropped the ball here, and Tony Gonzalez walks away with the win.
Contact Andrew Wild at [email protected].