Saturday, February 7, 2009

A-Roid the Great

I don't know what is worse, the fact that I wasn't surprised, or the fact that I simply don't care.

Alex Rodriguez did steroids? No way! Please don't say that he cheated on his wife, too...

I tried to catch up on sleep this morning, and learned the news of A-Rod's steroid use via a forward of a CNN "Breaking News" alert from my father on my Blackberry. His entire email read, "Do I really care? If this is 'breaking news,' we're in worse shape than we think we are!" Even with that disclaimer, when I scrolled down to see what the actual news was, I admit I was a bit disappointed.

An athlete does steroids? I'm just glad rock stars don't do drugs, and that actresses and supermodels don't take pills.

Truth be told, I was actually a little happy to read the headline.

There has always been something about A-Rod that has rubbed me the wrong way. His holier than thou perception, his tabloid relationship with Madonna that neither will confirm or deny, the fifth-grade bullshit between him and Derek Jeter... It's nice to see him fall a few rungs and have that smug persona of his take a hit.

I like my athletes with a little bit of gristle, some dirt on their uniform, and a character flaw that reminds me that they are human. If I want to see superheroes, I'll watch Iron Man, 24, or a Harry Potter movie. Even those character have problems, and they live in the land of make-believe.

Why? Because it's a lot easier to be absorbed by entertainment when the characters are at least plausible. Kids will look over the small detail that Harry Potter flies on broomsticks and has a cloak that makes him invisible if he at least has acne and is awkward around girls. What's the difference between Jack Bauer and John Rambo? Rambo is a mechanical killing machine, Keifer Sutherland is human killing machine who has a daughter that doesn't talk to him and has lost every woman he loves.

America loves a tragic hero. And even more than we love them, we love to forgive them.

Just ask Michael Phelps, who's been all over the headlines lately because someone got a picture of him smoking dope. Oh, the tragedy! How will we move on? We'll manage. Remember when an underage Phelps plead guilty to drunk driving little more than four years ago? Don't worry, most people don't remember it. It fell out of our collective conscience faster than George W. Bush.

We don't want a world that isn't shocked by a Christian Bale outburst, but a little bit of Tom Cruise jumping on a couch seems to be good for our collective psyche. It makes us remember that the people we pay far too much attention to are still really human. It allows us to remember, if even for a fleeting moment, that they're really no different than you or I.

Apart from the paycheck, ego and attitude, maybe.

People act surprised when I say that Joe DiMaggio is my favorite baseball player. So what if I never physically got to see him play? My wife's favorite bands are the Beatles and Queen, and she's never seen either of them perform live.

I loathe the Boston Red Sox, but love Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, Carlton Fisk and Carl Yastrzemski. How? Because when I grew up, not so long ago and in a galaxy not so far away, baseball was a different game. It was a game where players actually meant something more than a line of fantasy statistics.

Graig Nettles had a lifetime batting average of .248 and is still one of the greatest Yankees ever. Nobody cared that Thurman Munson was the captain, but not a media darling. And Reggie Jackson wasn't afraid of being the straw that stirred the drink, because he wasn't worried about endorsement deals.

Everybody wrote a book, and nobody cared. You didn't have to talk about "the sanctity of the clubhouse," because nobody in said clubhouse was delusional enough to think their "sanctity" was that important. When did Major League Baseball become the Roman Catholic Church?

If Major League Baseball honestly expected fans to believe that their drug-testing policy was going to rid the game of a problem that they claimed to know nothing about, then they truly believe us to be one dumb breed. Maybe we weren't all members of the National Honor Society, but that doesn't mean we still don't read a book or two. Some with words, even.

Are we really supposed to buy the idea that the only players doing steroids are the ones that get caught? It's convenient to pretend that the only people taking them are the players that sit on the bench, because they're looking for that extra something to get them in the lineup... Until we hear that Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire got caught. So now we know the guys on the top did them. It only makes sense, then, that the guys in between might, too. Right? Or is it just more convenient to stop making sense?

Major League Baseball enacted their mandatory random drug testing program in 2004, after an anonymous sampling in 2003 resulted in at least five percent positive results. That means we know that at least five out of every hundred guys were doing steroids at the time of the test (A-Rod being one of them). That's one of twenty. Or, more concisely, more than one player per active roster. My guess? It probably wouldn't be a stretch to say that there were at least a handful of guys doping in every team's dugout.

I see your five percent, Major League Baseball, and raise you to 15 percent. And I bet I'm still low. Would it be that surprising to find that one in every five players used steroids at one point or another in the late '90s and shortly thereafter?

Don't forget, MLB never released the results of their tests, they only stated that it was a number "greater than five percent."

The real "breaking news" to me isn't that A-Rod did steroids, it is the allegations buried paragraphs into the story that he was tipped to when his "random" tests would be the following year.

In other words, its okay for Jorge Piedra to take a random test, but the players union will warn poster boy Alex Rodriguez in advance.

I still love the game of baseball as much as I did as a kid, but now I love it for different reasons. I love the game, not the players. I love the chess match on the base paths, it doesn't matter which pawn it is trying to steal. And I love a home run more than the next guy, regardless of where it comes in the batting order.

Baseball is a great game, and it is played by great athletes. But being a great athlete doesn't make you a great person.

The great Alex Rodriguez - A-Roid, as he will be known from this day forward - taught us that today.

We were also taught that as great as the game of baseball may be, it will never be as great as it once was.


Adam Bernard said...

Baseball will always be great, it just won't produce heroes like it used to.

The REALLY sad fact lost in all this is that Jose Canseco was right. He broke this a full year ago in his second book, but people said "not A-Rod, not Clemens, they couldn't possibly be on steroids."

Side note - How much more impressive does this make the numbers Greg Maddux and Pedro Martinez put up during that era. Those are two guys who OBVIOUSLY aren't on steroids and who I'm starting believe should be ranked #1 and #2 in terms of the greatest pitchers of all time.

Chris McLernon said...

Aw, hell, Paul you beat me to it. I saw this story today and couldn't help but wonder:

How pissed is the Maris family about their asterisk?

Great Minds Think Alike said...

I was siked, not gonna lie. I can't wait for Bush to become commish and allow steroids. it makes for exciting baseball. look at the numbers!