Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Nature of Honesty: Dissecting A-Rod

I sure a lot of the readers of this blog, feel the same way I do this morning...slightly betrayed, slightly depressed. That's what happens when we see the fragile, human nature of our icons exposed publicly.

Though I've prided myself on not growing into a fan-boy of any of my comic creator heroes, sports heroes and/or movie star heroes...with someone like Alex Rodriquez, I've always felt a kind of respect based on fact that he "seemed to" epitomize the qualities of people I admire, (Competitive, hard working, ethical and honest). I didn't necessary like him as a person, but I respected him as an athlete, because A-Rod was going to be the shining white knight who helped to reclaim the "great game's" home-run records, that had been hijacked by those who cheated!

Watching A-Rod's public admission on ESPN yesterday, as well as the talking-sports-head's analysis of said admission, has really made me feel quite ill...as very few of them, it seems, want to cut through the PR hype of the whole circus and deal with what was really said.


The fact that this confession was presented by A-Rod as his coming clean and a chance to purge this demon from his past, just doesn't ring true. Fourteen months ago, on a nationally broadcast interview on the 60 minutes TV show, if he truly wanted that chance, he had a golden opportunity...which wouldn't have come through any outside pressure (more on this later). But at this time, A-Rod insisted he NEVER used any banned or performance enhancing substances. But now he admits he had! What's happened between these two episodes that helped A-Rod decide honesty was the best policy? Because the truth had already been revealed by a trusted outside source (Sport Illustrated). He only came clean, because the truth was now out there and with the steroid issue it's sadly become....guilty till proven innocent. And to deny it after you test positive is futile (ask Raphael Palmero).

But now we're suppose to believe that this was all that he's done (juiced from 2001-03). Why? But that's all there is proof of. There's no compelling reason for him to disclose any more than this.

Secondly, if you really dig into this interview it's pretty obvious A-Rod contradicts himself on numerous occasions...especially where the issue of whether he knew he had done wrong. On one hand, he asserted he didn't really know what he was taking or whether it was an illegal substance (which steroids are, whether they were banned by MLB at that time or not). On the other hand, he disclosed that the head of the MLB players union tipped him off that he "may or may not" have tested positive in the 2003 survey testings. Now let's just for a minute, think like adults here. What would a reasonable person think if they had taken a employment related drug test and one of your union officials, or bosses, felt the need to mention the that you might have failed. Wouldn't you assume that meant that you had failed? And if someone told you, you might have failed a drug test, for substances which you "didn't know or think were illegal", wouldn't you go out of your way to clear your name...especially when you had a $25 million a year contract and close to $500 million in total revenue on the line...before that information became public knowledge? Ah...but that information wasn't suppose to be released to the public.

The Texas Rangers organization really needs no help making themselves look ridiculous (and I say that as a fan of the club, unfortunately, for the past 25 years). As the Dallas Morning News recently published, with this admission by A-Rod, the Rangers can now field a complete lineup of admitted steroid users, implicated users and highly suspected users. So this makes them an easy target and thus a way for A-Rod, in a very subtle fashion, to pass off partial responsibility to the culture of the Texas Rangers of that era.

How many times did he mention the Rangers by name and apologize to his Texas fans (which is something of a oxy-moron)? For the purposes of this discussion, Texas and the Rangers became guilty by association. He made clear he was clean prior to this period (in Seattle) and after this time (in NYC). He stated one of the reasons he did this (even though through the other side of his mouth he said he didn't realize what he was doing was wrong) was to combat the incredible stress of trying to live up to this big contract, which was the largest in any major U.S. sport at the time. There are two things that are problematic about this excuse. One...does anyone believe there is more pressure and scrutiny on a player in DFW then there is in New York, playing for the Yankees? And two...if this is true, then isn't it an indictment against the tactics of his agent, Scott Boras...who put him in a situation that was so stressful that it caused him to seek illegal means to deal with it?
A final bit of theatre he added to prime the pump of Texas cultural guilt..."I did it to deal with the heat, it's over 100 degrees everyday down there!" I won't dispute it can get rather warm during our Texas summers and can and does get over 100 degrees sometimes for weeks at a time, but out of an odd 80 home games each year from April through Oct, the number of those played in that temperature is probably between 20 to 25% (16-20 games a year)...since most games in Arlington are played at night. Secondly, I don't think I've ever heard Steroids are effective with dealing with potential heatstroke!

So I can empathize with Ranger's owner, Tom Hicks, (and that's not something most fans of the Rangers do too often), when he says he feels betrayed, "like one of his son's lied to him." You see Mr. Hicks asked A-Rod the same straight out question as Katie Couric did on 60 minutes and received the same dishonest answer.

How many times when asked what he took or where he got it, did A-Rod answer, (paraphrasing) "I'm not sure, there were things you could get at any GNC in those days, that are banned today!" So A-Rod is asking the American people to believe, that the two illegal steroid that were in his system in 2003, were picked up at the local GNC? His answer to that accusation would probably be... no, that's not what I said. But by mentioning GNC by name almost every time the question was asked by Peter Gammons, what were you taking and where did you get it...they now become guilty by association! Do I smell a lawsuit?

Once again, it's clear what A-Rod's PR handlers were doing here. They were attempting to minimise the impact of what he was injecting into his body. They wanted the visual image of A-Rod walking into his local GNC and picking out a bottle of some vitamin supplement or protein powder, (like we all use), in the viewers head, rather then the image of A-Rod bent over a training table in some dark room after hours getting a needle full of an illegal substance, injected into this buttocks.

There is only one reason we had this 30 minutes of great theatre thrust at us yesterday. Not to provide a vehicle to purge his demons and come clean. Not to be a positive role model for all those young athletes who may follow in his footsteps. Not to show what a courageous, honest and upstanding young man he is. No, the only reason was to help A-Rod not lose what he has...both now and in the future.

In Joe Torre's new book, he shares what a self serving narcissist A-Rod was/is. He tried his best to help him become "just one of the guys," in the Yankees clubhouse, but A-Rod just couldn't seem to understand the need. People in MLB who have worked around him, seem consistently attest to the fact, that it's all about him, his image, his stats and how he'll be viewed in the history of the game. Could this be why when it really counts, A-Rod hasn't been able to produce a championship on the field...because he just can't "get" the team concept?

Yesterday's dog and pony show was nothing more of a staged PR exercise, rather then a real interview. A-Rod should have been sitting in Peter Gammon's lap, for all the softball questions he was serving up! This was all about: A-Rod, being able to continue to play baseball; A-Rod salvaging a chance to get into the Hall of Fame; A-Rod, not losing any of his 9-figures in annual endorsements. Don't be confused by the shell game on display, the only reason he came clean about anything, was that he was advised both by friends and his agent (the great Satan, Scott Boras, who I imagine earns a percentage of everything that A-Rod earns), that there was no other choice and this was the only way to lose the least amount possible.

As someone who's raised his children to believe that honesty is one of the most important character traits to have, it's a sad day in my household, for another icon has fallen...and I'm not referring to a sports hero, but rather the truth. We live in a society that this week we've learned, that our political leaders only have to pay their taxes (or admit they didn't) when it becomes front page news. We learned that our sports heroes indulge in illegal recreational and/or performance enhancing drugs, because someone has a camera phone at a party or someone leaks results of test that wasn't suppose to be made public. And after the facts come out, we're suppose to credit their not disputing undeniable evidence, as honesty. Quoting Kevin Sherrington (Dallas Morning News, 2/11/09)..."A-Rod, admits he did wrong even though he's not sure exactly what he did. But whatever it was, he swears he didn't do it before Texas and not at all since he left."

Honesty, is not something that reveals itself only when you have no other recourse. Honesty is something that should show itself when there is every reason to lie, but the only reason to tell the truth is your own conscience and knowing what is the right thing to do.

R.J. Luedke

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