By Ernie Palladino
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The upside-down world of sports told us this week that it’s going to be easier to forget Derek Jeter than Alex Rodriguez.
Ain’t that a kick in the pants? Just about 24 hours after Jeter left the field for good in Boston, Joe Girardi informed the world that A-Rod remains firmly and definitely in the Yankees’ plans for next season.
A-Rod — 39 and fresh off a whole year’s respite for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal — with a “deny, deny, deny” attitude and two bad hips, will once again stand at third base in 2015.
For how many games, that’s up to how Rodriguez performs in spring training. But even if the old hips can’t take the usual pounding at third, he’ll still be in the lineup as DH.
A-Rod, despised and detested even by his team’s own fans, will once again become one of Major League Baseball’s members in good standing. And if he does start launching baseballs out of Yankee Stadium, he will be cheered just as loudly as Jeter was on his best days.
Surprised? We shouldn’t be. Such is the current state of sports. While some in the media — this typist among them — whine about the excess of Jeter’s farewell tour, of how a man who displayed respect, dignity and love for his game had somehow fallen prey to baseball’s moneymen while overlooking how his Turn 2 Foundation also made a ton of needed funds from the honoring franchises, we shrug off far more disturbing stuff.
While the Chiefs’ Husein Abdullah was being flagged Monday night for falling to his knees and — God forbid — praying after his pick-six against the Patriots, the NFL and NFLPA were in the midst of coming to a historic agreement to appoint a neutral arbitrator to hear Ray Rice’s appeal of an indefinite suspension for knocking out his fiancee in a casino elevator. Though the league admitted Tuesday that Abdullah never should have been flagged for what amounted to a Tim Tebow-like exercising of his religious beliefs, there they were. Abdullah, it should be noted, admirably interrupted his NFL career last year to make a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, which all Muslims are told to make once in their lives.
Meanwhile, the NFLPA and the league are going to extraordinary lengths to provide Rice, a woman beater by video evidence, an avenue to shorten the “indefinite” suspension Roger Goodell issued after he originally slapped Rice’s wrist for two games. That was before TMZ unearthed the replay of his one-punch knockout. According to the collective bargaining agreement, the commissioner would have appointed the arbitrator. But things turned sticky because Goodell could be called as a witness. So now the sides are going over an extensive list of third-party names to hear the case of a man who clearly needs to sit for an entire season or longer.
We have Adrian Peterson — inactive for one game, reactivated and then, only after an outcry, suspended while fighting a Texas indictment for beating his four-year-old child bloody with a tree branch — still in contact with the Vikings. It seems the running back sent an inspirational text to coach Mike Zimmer, with whom he’s been in constant contact, to be relayed to his teammates. That message is being partially credited with the Vikings’ 41-28 win over Atlanta this past Sunday.
Peterson still believes he’ll be allowed to play this season. Delusional? Sure. But the fact that he can even think that indicates that all sports are in a sorry state.
It goes all the way down to college. Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston got a half and — again, on second thought — a full game’s suspension against Clemson for shouting sexual obscenities in the student union and then lying about it to the administration. If it was the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner’s first misstep, one might understand the leniency. But this is a troubled kid who has been investigated for sexual assault and convicted of shoplifting the previous two years. Yet he’s welcomed on the Seminoles’ field because they’ll probably fall off the top of the polls without him.
And just Tuesday came the news that a New Jersey high-school running back committed to Purdue was charged with aggravated assault for punching a girl in the nose Saturday at a school beauty pageant. The university had no comment on the charges. But you can bet that if the coaches think the kid is good enough, he’ll still be a Boilermaker come next fall.
There are miscreants of all types in all sports. So is it any wonder that A-Rod, whose sins reside in the rather ritzy neighborhood of high-level cheating, is being talked about as part of next year’s solution rather than a rule breaker who the Yankees would be better off ditching?
Not in this era. Not in the overall state sports is in right now.
To paraphrase Simon & Garfunkel, “Where have you gone, Derek Jeter?”
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