Not that many of you listen to me, but I urge the few who do to drop this A-Rod gambling obsession like a Nolan Ryan heater a meter away.
I wrote a column last week asserting that A-Rod is the most polarizing athlete in America, beating LeBron by a nose. And it seems every man, woman, and child chides him with some frequency. Or you defend him to the death. There are no tepid takes on the man who fittingly makes his home in the hot corner.
Frankly, I don’t see what’s so charming, disarming, or disheartening about Mr. Rodriguez, but no one ever accused me of being normal. As a Yankees fan I want him to suppress his penchant for gagging in October (sans 2009) and see another gratuitous banner fly from the fake façade over that embellished martini bar they now call Yankee Stadium. Where he plays cards means nothing to me.
Indeed, if a heterosexual male tells you he’s never made a bet with a bud, been to a strip club or checked “Yes” next to the Happy Ending item on the massage menu, he’s lying. (Yes, pray your wife doesn’t read this and make the inevitable inquiries.) Only two of those entities are illegal, of course. But no matter A-Rod’s sin, it is we, his fellow sinners, who project our problems on his poker. This time his fatal flaw was entering a casino – a rather legal endeavor – to play some cards.”
Telling me that A-Rod played five-card draw in a Pennsylvania casino is as exciting as saying he bought organic butter from an Amish market next door. What’s next? You now know his tell? He picks his nose when he’s got a helluva hand?
Lord knows there are a thousand reasons to dislike Alex Rodriguez – which I listed in detail last week – but this isn’t one of them. He’s a supreme narcissist, a characteristic that covers about 90 percent of pro players, of any sport of any import. Being great means more than having a talent for topic X; it also requires a singular dedication to himself and his craft, which includes thousands of hours of practice (or rehearsal, if you prefer) and, frankly, looking at yourself. In fact, the odd athlete is the one who doesn’t have an odd – if not disturbing – fixation with himself. There are thousands of prominent athletes precisely like Rodriguez. Perhaps the defining difference is his money and movie-star looks.
What gets to me is A-Rod’s half-hearted mea culpa over steroids.
“You see, what had happened was, I think I took something called ‘boli’ or something, from my brother’s mother’s cousin’s uncle’s niece’s nephew somewhere in the Caribbean.” It was pure fertilizer then, and it is now. He knows he shot his tan tush with equine cocktails that would make Man o’ War blush. But since we live in a societal sphere of half-truths, half-lies appear identical in our inverted veracity. So we forgave him.
Lord knows he’s foisted fodder and Page Six blotters on our laps ever since he peeled the pinstripes onto his acne-addled back. But at what point does shooting darts at his visage become vulgar? I don’t particularly care for the man. But aside from steroids, I really don’t get the felonious face you’ve painted over him.
We can all plunge into rigorous relativism, asserting that A-Rod makes more than ten thousand teachers combined. A fireman making 40K jumps into burning buildings to save a dog, while A.J. Burnett dogs his way through every outing at 500 grand per start. But what does that accomplish?
We know our world is economically and comically distorted. Is this news? Whenever he makes a movie, Jim Carrey requires a chef for his pet lizard, and you wonder if A-Rod doubles down on an eight while the dealer flouts a face card? It’s his money to burn. This notion that poker is a perilous funnel to fixing games is laughable. The man will make half a billion bucks before his 40th birthday. He can buy just about any casino he enters. Time to step out of the Joe Jackson time warp. There is no threat other than the emotional egg on his face for shoveling cash to players with ten times his poker prowess. It’s not the first time he’s played the fool, and he’s flush against a full house no matter the house’s take. In fact, Michael Jordan was hustled by golf pros for years. Does it matter if it happens on the green felt of a poker table or the green grass of a golf course?
No, A-Rod’s karmic tax comes later, when he has the genitalia of a newborn and a voice higher than Jennifer Tilly. Jose Canseco is the precursor to the American juicer, who thumbed their nose at our pastime, and it’s long past time they pay a more vicious vigorish, one that cheaters and chips can’t measure. When A-Rod would rather mow the lawn than make love, you’ll know he got his. The man’s dishonesty has been amply archived. Don’t blast him for the rare moment he’s not.
Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com