By Jason Keidel
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No matter how accomplished a sportswriter becomes, he or she is little more than a fan who happens to think in paragraphs.
From Grantland Rice to Red Smith to Tom Verducci, the bards of baseball find their voice vicariously through their childhood habits. They collected baseball cards with their dads or scampered to some dusty diamond to play long-toss.
So when you hear the collective fury from the media and wonder why we aren’t more diplomatic over Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and the other PED bandits who have hijacked our pastime, remember that we are merely you with a platform, feeling equally duped.
Why is anyone angry at A-Rod? Why were you, as an adult, disgusted with Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and the fraudulent summer of Sammy Sosa?
Because ever since we were children we’ve followed sports under the implicit agreement that what we’re watching is real. The difference between baseball and pro wrestling is the idea that we are watching legitimate competition. The result isn’t scripted.
Pete Rose was booted from baseball because he bet on his team while he managed it, thus shredding all notion of objectivity. One phone call to a bookie doesn’t ruin anything, but it’s a portal to far greater offenses.
So it is with steroids, HGH or PEDs, or any cocktail of consonants that describes cheating. Whether you’re watching it or we are covering it, we’d like to know that we didn’t just waste our time viewing fiction.
A-Rod apologists think all his detractors are just haters, envious of his looks, cash and cachet.
We aren’t angry at A-Rod because he makes the most money, but because he told the most lies. His montage of malfeasance is galling even by our subterranean standards. He lied about taking steroids. Then he admitted it. Then he allegedly lied about it again, and is now reportedly negotiating his mea culpa.
Then, he reportedly tried to thwart MLB’s investigation into Biogenesis, including alleged misleading statements and witness tampering.
If that weren’t enough, he had the gall to use a charity to burnish his image. A-Rod spoke many of times on behalf of the Taylor Hooton Foundation, lecturing kids on the perils of PEDs.
I repeat: A-Rod used a group built by the memory of a young man who committed suicide as a result of steroid abuse. And he did so while allegedly using steroids.
And yet there is something sad, if not sympathetic, about Rodriguez, who has burned every bridge, torched all trust and cheated his way to the top of his profession. And then lied about it.
There is something about a beaten man, at the end of his rope, knowing the guillotine is about to be dropped. The hood is on his head, so he doesn’t know exactly when. But he knows that it’s coming, and it’s over.
On June 6 I called for A-Rod to leave the game and what’s left of his legacy. I was called a moron and that my logic was laughable. Not so funny anymore, eh? MLB is trying to do exactly that. Banish A-Rod from the game, a sentence of Rose contours.
But I get no childish thrill out of being right. There is no right here. There are no winners, only losers. We’re all stained by the greed that spawned this era. Despite his relatively young age and gold-plated path to retirement, no one wants to be A-Rod now — swarmed by hungry reporters who are essentially giving him the finger on his way down, to an angry chorus of betrayed fans who thought he was the white knight of the new age.
Either they ban him for life or suspend him for a long time, which could be the same. Life is wretched for A-Rod, who told Sports Illustrated that he wants to be a role model for his daughter. That’s probably all he has left, a young girl and a forlorn former icon together, looking to each other for guidance.
Feel free to email me at Jakster0529@gmail.com.
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