I try to stay away from sports conversation on this blog, but the recent developments in baseball reach beyond sports, I do believe. They extend to society-at-large and are a reflection of our values.
First, let me get this out there: I am not a fan of New York Yankees short-stop, Alex Rodriguez. Not at all. My lasting memory of him will forever be his silly glove-slap that he committed against the Boston Red Sox in the 2004 American League Championship Series. That, to me, was an accurate representation of who he is as a player. He's a punk. Plain and simple.
And so, humanly speaking, when I heard that he tested positive for steroids, I not-so-secretly felt a little satisfaction. Unless you're a devoted fan of his, I'm sure that most people felt the same way.
But when I took a step back from that initial reaction, I realized that the whole situation is an incredibly sad commentary on our values and behavior as a society. Because of our infatuation with sports; because of our demands for athletes to be bigger, faster, stronger, smarter; because of a plethora of things, we, in some ways, have created the monster that is Alex Rodriguez, or Roger Clemens, or Barry Bonds, or Marion Jones. This doesn't exonerate these individuals of personal responsibility. But if I am to understand that "no man is an island," and that what happens to one person affects the whole, I have to realize that I have had a personal part to play in this whole unfortunate drama.
And the irony of it all - if I may call it that - is that we then turn around and demonize such individuals for doing all they can to become bigger, stronger, faster, quicker. We set them up to engage in these unfortunate behaviors, and then we feel happy when they are caught. There is a tremendous inconsistency to the whole process.
Of course, through this whole thing, Alex Rodriguez has been incredibly superficial in his apologies. And yet there is still a place to feel sorry for him. Taken at face value, he said the reason that he started taking steroids is because he just wanted to live up to the expectations of signing the largest contract in sports history. Do you appreciate the irony of this sad state of affairs as well? When he pursued a new contract, he was pretty unabashed in his attempts to get the most money he could. And then, after signing the contract, he decided he needed to take steroids so he could live up to the expectations that had been - quite justifiably - heaped upon him. And now he wants us to feel sorry for him.
But don't you have to sleep in the bed you make? If you are ruthless in trying to drain a team for every penny its worth, shouldn't you be able to live up to those expectations?
But I do feel sorry for him. I am sure he did feel overwhelmed, as every athlete has, to respond to those pressures. I also feel sorry for a guy who thinks that he needs to make $250 million to feel valuable and then has to turn around and take steroids to feel as though he is worthy of that $250 million. It speaks to his confusion, and lostness, and emptiness. On the one hand he feels worthy, yet on the other hand he doesn't.
And such is the game we play. This is true not only of sports, of course, but all of life.