By Jason Keidel
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How many times has your wife, girlfriend or similar wondered with a certain bewilderment and contempt why you love sports?
Beyond the physical splendor of athletics and the human male’s need to dominate everything, including Nerf basketball against an infant, is the finality and simplicity of the final score.
If you beat me at chess, poker or basketball you are, for an ephemeral magic moment, better than I am. Likewise, if your team beats mine you will call incessantly, and when I punch it to voice mail, you will flood my data plan with texts, tweets and Facebook posts until I acknowledge your superiority.
Yes, men think this way, even after age 40.
Then we have Alex Rodriguez and his band of bandits who have hijacked sports with steroids, HGH, PEDs and a cocktail of consonants that abbreviate cheating. Anyone who operates outside the lines and rules rattles our simple minds into a haze of confusion. But Rodriguez is not the first icon to bend our moral compass or throw our sense of identity into question.
Even after a former FBI director wrote a two-inch book on Penn State’s malfeasance and Joe Paterno’s role in covering up Jerry Sandusky’s atrocities, my inbox still boiled with vulgarities from those who still think Paterno did nothing wrong.
When someone is that committed to the Kool-Aid, there is nothing you can do. If anyone outside of his family still defends Paterno, leave them alone. There is something profoundly wrong with them and they are beyond salvation.
But Rodriguez is certainly not Paterno. His crimes are far more benign and he largely hurt himself. Heck, he’s not even Riley Cooper, who dropped nuclear semantic bombs on video, using the most toxic term in America. Any sane person feels the same way about Cooper’s rant.
But Rodriguez is a fascinating case study not only on his own, but also in how we react to him. And it’s time to realize that those who refuse to admit that Rodriguez has royally screwed up are beyond assistance. We will call them “A-Rod Apologists.”
You are an “A-Rod Apologist” if you…
— Keep pointing to the other 12 people suspended on Monday, ignoring the fact that they took their punishment like champs and they, like your beloved A-Rod, had NOT failed a drug test.
— Refuse to look at everything else that Rodriguez did beyond taking performance-enhancing drugs. Remember, he reportedly lured other players to Biogenesis, bought incriminating papers and possibly witnesses, and lectured children on the perils of PEDs. All of this after his first mea culpa in 2009.
— Moan that you’re tired of talking about this. There is a reason that this story is swathed across every major sports-media outlet in America. Chances are you don’t want to talk about it because you still adore A-Rod.
— Insist that there are more important sports stories to discuss. A caller tried that logic on Evan Roberts on Monday, and when Evan asked him to name a bigger story, the caller stuttered his way into oblivion.
— Assert that there are more important things going on in the world. We all acknowledge that this is simply a sports story. None of these columns are on the cover of Newsweek, Time Magazine or The New York Times. It would help if you removed your A-Rod Snuggie before making these points.
— Point to all the people lunging at Rodriguez for his autograph yesterday. People love to be around something important, no matter the reason. Even Robert Chambers got thousands of love letters in prison.
— Declare that Rodriguez will be beloved again once he hits a game-winning home run. Yankees fans can root for a player to do well, even if they don’t like him. If we limited our entertainment dollar to those we admire as men, we would never buy an album, watch a movie or attend a sporting event.
— Join Rodriguez’s conspiracy camp. You think the Yankees worked in concert with MLB to keep him off the field, pulling off the perfect exacta of shaming him while shaving salary. According to ESPN’s Wallace Matthews, the Yankees have not received a dime of insurance money on Rodriguez this year.
Once he was healthy enough to play, he played, despite his epic suspension. And for those who say that the Yankees concocted his quad quandary, it was Rodriguez who removed himself from that minor-league game, complaining of pain in the very quad that was strained. The Yankees handled his rehab no differently from any other player.
It was Rodriguez who enlisted Dr. Michael Gross — who hadn’t examined him in person and had been fined and reprimanded by the state of New Jersey for prescribing steroids — to go on a clumsy radio tour declaring that Rodriguez was fit for action. You can’t make this up.
The case will be adjudicated through a conga line of lawyers, unions, courts and arbitrators. It could take days, weeks or months to decide what his exact punishment is. But punished he will be. And he earned every nanosecond of his suspension, no matter the length.
And if someone you care about can’t see that, perhaps the above guide to the “A-Rod Apologist” will help.
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