Thursday, April 30, 2009

You can't spell 'Alex Rodriguez' without AIG

People probably will spend 22 bucks to read about Alex Rodriguez since the public appetite is whetted for scandal.

It's better from a mental health point of view to only concern yourself with this Narcissus in pinstripes only in terms of his statistical impact on a ball game, which of course, means that your interest might be piqued because A-Rod, according to the New York Daily News story, is accused ... "of 'pitch tipping' when he was with the Rangers — letting a friendly opponent at the plate know which pitch was coming in lopsided games." That might be worse than the 'roids.

Stripping him of all the A-Rod artifice seems like a fitting punishment, since he did eff up royally. This is all about keeping in mind that there is always some pretty good scratch to be made ballyhooing a sports scandal at a time of great upheaval. It draws eyes away from the real outrages, of which there seem to be a lot of in the United States these days.

The beauty of it is that it's not hard to find like-minded people who also refuse to play ball. With all due respect to Selena Roberts, being told a thickheaded jock possibly shooting steroids as far back as high school and such is like being told a lot of Hollywood actresses are bulimic. Well, duh! Paraphrasing the late, great David Foster Wallace, it's one of those things it's better not to know about. It kind of spoils the whole sustaining illusion that keeps the sports-industrial complex going, which is that you or I could do what Alex Rodriguez does. You have to start taking steroids in high school? Forget it.

That's not to cast aspersions on Ms. Roberts. Plenty of people, including ShysterBall, which noted that much of her reporting on the 2006 Duke lacrosse case did not hold water, are doing that already. (Granted, a lot of people got taken in by the Duke story, and you know how that turned out: The prosecutor got disbarred.) At the end of the day, sportswriters are mostly entertainers, just less well paid and schlumpier than most athletes and performers. By and large, they do not write with the aim of increasing understanding, stimulating serious thought, doing public good or respecting the right to due process.

They're trying to write something people will read, which is still noble. Roberts is keeping us entertained and presumably got a Jesus-big advance for the third major Yankees-focused book to come out in the past three months in the past three months of so. (Previously there was Joe Torre's The Yankee Years and Jeff Pearlman's bio of Roger Clemens, The Rocket Who Fell To Earth. It promises to be a lulu:
Rumoured to be on the verge of a personal and professional collapse so profound it would rate as one of the most dramatic falls in major league history. Through exhaustive reporting and interviews, Roberts will detail A-Rod as a plunge-in-progress, a once-in-a-generation baseball talent tortured by an internal struggle between the polished family man he wants to be and the unabashed hedonist he has become. The storyline will include his dalliances with strippers, infatuation with Madonna, details of his record-breaking $315-million contract, shady real estate empire and further evidence of steroid use, but will also tunnel deeper into his behavior. Roberts will reveal the root of Alex's identity crisis - the night his father abandoned him - and, in so doing, answer the question: who is the real A-Rod?
Let the record show that the witness made the "What-ever" sign with his thumbs and forefingers, like the kids did. The upshot is this has no impact on one's appreciation of baseball. It's probably good for someone who feels like he's going out of the house naked if he doesn't have a morning shot of Haterade.

You don't have to get sucked in. Enjoy the game for the game's sake.

There are tens of thousands of people who will attend a major league baseball game this summer without having devoted a second to thinking about what Alex Rodriguez did, who he did, how he did it or where he did it. That's not keeping one's head in the sand, because the Baseball Hall of Fame voting could be a full-on gong show for the next 10-20 years in the wake of the juiced-ball era and the perception steroids fueled the home run explosion of the 1990s and early 2000s.

Really, though, it's not a revelation that people who are disproportionately rewarded for being able to perform a socially irrelevant act like hitting home runs can be needy and emotionally fragile, and capable of rotten behaviour. Make no mistake about that. That's not keeping one's head in the sand, it's just some cagey compartmentalizing.

A-Rod took steroids while with Yankees, and as teen, claims new book (New York Daily News)
Thirteen thoughts on the baseball Judas (Feb. 10, 2009)

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