By Jason Keidel
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Writers are a romantic lot, wed to notions like nostalgia, love and loss. As with any vocation, a writer writes best when he’s passionate about his topic. That’s what sells newspapers, magazines and websites. Pound the keyboard with the passion of Pamplona’s native bulls and you’ll hit the bull’s-eye.
Alex Rodriguez – with a proper nod to LeBron James – is the most polarizing athlete in America. (I considered the mouthy NFL wideouts, Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens, but they’re long past their primes and never won anything. LeBron is the only one in A-Rod’s stratosphere.)
I could pour my soul into a piece about a soldier, who, after losing his leg, hops ten miles with his injured brother draped on his back and drops him on a cot at the local, makeshift triage, saving his life. And I’d get three hits with two comments.
Yet if Alex Rodriguez is spotted sipping a latte in Eugene, Oregon, the world goes wild. What’s he doing in Eugene? Is he going back to the Mariners? Maybe he’s got his gumar over there.
Only A-Rod creates more headlines while on the DL than any other player in pristine condition. The latest, drama, of course, was over his possible link to an illegal poker game with stars of equal heft, from Leonardo DiCaprio to Spider Man.
Indeed, I wrote an ardent missive on the Yankees – Red Sox rivalry this week and got 107 Facebook “Likes” near my byline, 12 comments under the column, and 12 more on WFAN’s Facebook page, and 0 comments on my personal Facebook page. Remember: 107 and 24 comments.
My A-Rod column (Poker Face) from last Friday, got 151 “Likes” and 16 comments under the column, 19 comments on WFAN’s Facebook page, and 36 on my personal Facebook page. Remember: 151 likes and 72 comments versus 107 and 24. There are many examples of this, but you get my proverbial drift.
I hate the Red Sox more than any group short of a terrorist organization. I hate New England, from Ben Affleck to their accents to their attitudes. I drove a tractor-trailer for three years, and if any of my New York brethren wore any Yankees paraphernalia while delivering goods to a warehouse in Boston and beyond, they were guaranteed a three-hour delay once they arrived. Thus, their noon appointment became 3 p.m. “We’ve just go no doors open,” they’d say, meaning no open space for us to back our trucks into so they may unload the freight intended for them. There were many spaces open, of course, but they closed the moment we wore a Bernie Williams jersey.
I’ve been told Fenway is an essential place for every baseball fan to visit. I refuse. I’d get hives near Harvard. The point is that my piece lacked no passion. You just flock to an A-Rod report, and I’d love to know why.
My buddy took a picture of me standing next to A-Rod’s visage on the side of a phone booth (yes, they still make those), with A-Rod clad in his $2,000 gray sweater with the lapels of a blue-green shirt sprouting from his collar, arms folded across his massive chest, left hand clutching some nutritional beverage, looking his Fred MacMurray, pastoral best. Doesn’t work. A-Rod being Alex just doesn’t feel right. Yet an innocuous and silly picture on an arbitrary Manhattan corner got 25 comments on my Facebook page. I posted a comment about the Dow Jones collapsing worse than the Miami Heat and got 0 comments.
“He could get it,” I was told by a (rather attractive) woman. This was an amorous reference you’ll have to discern without further detail, as this is a family program. Simply, he’s the women’s iteration of the dizzy blonde. Men want her dumb, pretty, and pretty quiet. Likewise with A-Rod. Even women cringe when he speaks, which is invariably in scripted platitudes about team goals, musing profoundly over Kim Jones’s microphone, while we know – heck, Joe Torre wrote it in his book – that A-Rod loves his batting average first, winning percentage second.
It’s not that he’s dumb, per se. But he has just enough intelligence to carry on with a reporter, but too much hubris to know when to shut up.
I’m one of the few people not radically moved either way. Yes, he’s a supreme narcissist who’s too manicured to be taken into the arms of everyman, the proletarian. He’s rich, acts like he’s rich, and is corporeal proof of the chasmal gap between those why fly in private jets around the world and the rest of us who live in it. But as a Yankees fan I’m far more moved by a game-winning homer in the ALCS than his trysts and turns in Central Park or a Park Avenue penthouse. Just win, baby.
His talent can never be questioned. Nor is his hustle. Even on dribblers back to the pitcher he busts it down the line. ”You’re supposed to bust it to first base every play,” you shriek. True. But a lot of things are supposed to happen and don’t. How many times have you seen a slugger trot to first on a flare that falls between outfielders? Had he applied a fraction of his normal traction on the flare, he’d be puffing at second base. A-Rod never cheats us with effort.
But I need you to tell me why we love or hate him. It must be more than his talent or his torment, his obscene gift to play a game for half a billion bucks, in salary alone. It’s too cliché to say all transcendent talents are quirky recluses who have been hurt by some media member back in the day and has been scarred ever since. And you can’t hate him simply because he’s better-looking and wealthier than you, because that would make you hate all pro athletes. No, there’s a variable in play, a missing, distant dynamic simmering in the subconscious. Help me find it. Please.
He’s a Freudian dream, abandoned by his dad as a kid, which, according to the good doctor, impacts our ability to have healthy relationships with the gender of the parent who did us wrong. But then that doesn’t explain his failures with women. He loves – no, worships – his mother, yet he can’t properly bond with her gender.
Word is that he’s assumed more leadership roles with the Yanks this year, mentoring David Robertson, among a few. I hear the cynics now, “It’s a fifty grand buy-in,” he told the hard-throwing reliever. “Blinds and antes go up every hour. By the way, does a straight beat a full house? No, no, of course I knew. Just testin’ ya.”
So call this an open letter to you, the reader, whom I hope can give me the A-Rod answer, how a man who manages to delight and delude us. Whatever his impact on us, we’re hooked and booked on the A-Rod Express, no matter where it takes us.
Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com
Why do so many fans hate “The Lightning Rod”? Prove Keidel right and let the A-Rod comments flow below…