"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Why I Root for Alex Rodriguez

It’s been said that the biggest problem with American men is that we are forever stuck in adolescence. Sometimes my wife will look at me and ask, “What are you thinking?” I’ll saying, “Nothing,” and if she presses, most of the time I’ll confess, “I was thinking about El Duque’s wind-up.” And that is the truth. I day dream about sports, especially baseball, all the time.

The reason that I’ve enjoyed rooting for Alex Rodriguez goes even further back–it is infantile and all about my relationship with my father. My dad was not a mediocre man. He was exceptionally bright, charming, and exuded self-confidence. At one time, he had the world on a string, he was a comer. But it crumbled and so did he. He was a dreamer who dreamed big, grandiose dreams. It wasn’t enough to start small and eventually succeed. It had to be boffo from the start.

In the end, he was a failure in his professional life. He drank himself out of a marriage. He talked the talk, but he fell down a lot.

On the other hand, my mother walked the walk in life. If my dad was Reggie Jackson, home run or strike out, my mother was Willie Randolph or Don Mattingly or Derek Jeter. Hard-working, earnest, competitive, tough. She was very much a heroine. Not without her own flaws and problems of course, but she took care of my brother and sister and me, and thrived professionally when she could have fallen apart.

Still, her success always underscored my father’s failure. And as a kid, my dad was my hero. I wanted to believe his promises, needed to believe that he’d eventually come through. Defended him when it seemed that everyone in our family, and in the world, was against him.

Which is why I’ve been drawn to rooting for Rodriguez. It’s about wishing for greatness to be realized. And not just solid, dependable greatness like Jeter, but fantastic, over-the-top, all-time greatness.

I came to accept my father, warts and all, as best as I could. By the time I was in my Thirties, I became my own man and didn’t need him to be a hero anymore. And since he’s been dead, I think about him with more compassion than I ever could when he was alive.

But baseball is different. It brings out the kid in us who yearns for heroes. I may know intellectually that ball players, like other entertainers, are not necessarily admirable human beings, but that doesn’t matter.

I figure things are going to continue to get worse for Rodriguez because he’s like a beautiful-looking version of the hapless Charlie Brown. Today we find out that the drug he got in D.R. was illegal. There will be more mishegoss to follow, I’m certain.

But even if Rodriguez isn’t a guy I’d want to hang out with, or to know personally, that doesn’t prevent the little kid in me from wanting him to make good, just like the kid in me hoped for my old man to strike it rich and fulfill his great potential.

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1 Diane Firstman   ~  Feb 20, 2009 1:19 pm

Vividly told ..... thanks for sharing that AB.

2 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Feb 20, 2009 1:31 pm

Well done, Alex. Just yesterday i was watching the MLB Network's Gold Glove special and noticed that Carlos Pena's recent success made me feel really good inside. It reminded me of how seeing all those big impressive numbers in the MacMillan Baseball Encyclopedia and reading all those stories about the fielding prowess of Tris Speaker or Hal Chase, or seeing video of Brooks Robinson or Graig Nettles made me fall in love with the game in the first place. Greatness is inspiring. Some team is going to win the World Series every year, but the presence of a great player or a great year by a lesser player is never guaranteed. On a certain level, it's seeing that sort of individual excellence that's the real reward of being a fan.

I think that's why fans react so viciously when they find out that greatness has been tainted. It's like finding out there is no Santa Claus, or that the moon landing was faked (which is wasn't, I'm just saying). It's a devastating blow to what you describe as that need to believe.

3 knuckles   ~  Feb 20, 2009 1:49 pm

I root for laundry.
Clemens threw at Jeter in ST prior to becoming a Yankee. Damon was the ringleader of a bunch of clowns who caught a bunch of breaks and beat the Yanks in ’04. There are very few players out there who Yankee fans would not get behind if they could come to the Bronx a produce. I’d say the list begins and ends with Schilling and Rocker, though maybe Bonds sneaks into the category as well.

Arod can’t seem to manage to do or say the right things to keep the media (and by extension, the fanbase) happy. So what? Last I checked, that isn’t a part of the latest VORP/WARP/OPS+ equation. Arod did steroids. So did 103 others in 2003, and countless others through the years. Every title the Yanks have won, every playoff appearance, has likely been aided by steroids. Same with the success of every other team out there. So unless people are prepared to either turn your back on the sport for good, or assume everyone is guilty until all 103 names are released, then they’re just using this as another outlet to heap scorn upon someone they don’t like.

4 Raf   ~  Feb 20, 2009 2:20 pm

You know what's funny? That we'll probably find out who leaked Rhianna's police photos before we find out who leaked Rodriguez's name...

5 jackstrawfromwichita   ~  Feb 20, 2009 2:39 pm

I have been a "lurker" here for a few years and I am not sure why i feel compelled to comment now (perhaps b/c I am bored at work) but it is posts like this one really make this blog unique and the reason i keep coming back.

I have alway felt a little "dirty" rooting for a-rod and only did it because his uniform compelled me to do so. However, the over-the top, holier-than-thou, msm reaction to the steroids and his press conference (cut him?.... really?) has completely turned me around. Now I am REALLY rooting for him.

6 rbj   ~  Feb 20, 2009 3:13 pm

[5] Welcome, jackstraw.

I do find it easier to root for someone in pinstripes and boo others. But I view that as more getting into the play or opera or movie. It's like rooting for the actor's character. I'll boo Big Papi because he wears Red Sox, but it doesn't mean I wish him ill. In fact "hating" just takes too much energy. Why waste energy on hating a person you've never met, never will meet and who will not have any real effect on your life.

I can sympathize with A-Rod's insecurities, I've got many of my own despite two advanced degrees, a black belt in Aikido, owning my own home, etc. Manny being Manny I can enjoy, despite the uniform difference, even though the watching your homerun thing is stupid. I do draw the line at laying down on your team in order to get traded. It's one thing to take a piss break in the green monster, it's another to strike out because you're peeved you have to pinch hit on your day off. I guess I'm just trying to say that I don't take it too seriously even though I'm happy the morning after a Yankee win and grumpier than normal the morning after they lose.

7 CountZero   ~  Feb 20, 2009 3:31 pm

Well said.

I mean, really -- tragic heroes (with their quintessential flaws out there in the open for all to see) tug at your heart better than the seemingly steadfast ones -- even if you would much prefer your kids grow up to be the latter type.

Whether it's Icarus, Oedipus, Lear, The Mick or A-Rod -- there's something about the "humanity" of a guy who reaches for the sky and falls back to earth spectacularly that brings out the sympathetic side of me.

8 Yankster   ~  Feb 20, 2009 4:46 pm

I hear you, and I appreciate hearing you, but I just don't see it. A-rod doesn't fall off the wagon or yell at a lady, he doesn't sit there frozen at the injustice around him, or the purposelessness of his great sport - he just stumbles in little venal ways. I keep thinking he kept taking the steroids because they made his waxed body look better to him. It's just sort of lame. Madonna, really? If life took a real bite out of his ass (which I don't wish on him at all) and he showed a crack of humanity, I'd have to let go of my grudge. Instead, when he thinks (rightly or not) that he's being unfairly picked on, he hires a publicity flak to tell him how to appear sympathetic, lays on the makeup and powder, and makes his best effort at being honest, which is surprisingly weak. He should have just watched Giambi do it.

9 Mattpat11   ~  Feb 20, 2009 5:40 pm

Is it really a shock that boli is illegal?

As for Alex, he's a baseball player on my favorite team. He's a very good one, so I root for him. The second he stops being a very good baseball player on my favorite team, I no longer want to see him around. I find very little about his personality, private life, and off the field antics endearing. There are past and current Yankees that I hope will stay in and around the franchise for many years after their active playing career has run its course.

I hope Alex Rodriguez just goes away.

10 Dimelo   ~  Feb 20, 2009 6:35 pm

[9] I know what you mean.

[0] I used to root hard for Alex Rodriguez, I wanted him to prove all the doubters wrong, I wanted him to stick it to Red Sox fans by shouldering a championship trophy. Then things changed, not exactly sure when, but they did and no longer was he someone I cared about much, outside of the games I watched. It just evolved into something deeper. What solidified it all for me was the way he opted out.

I don't begrudge him for wanting more money, even though he already had gobs of money already. Just the way he went about the entire freaggin thing, it still bugs me, even more so now after all this nonsense has come out.

I just find ARod to be an embarrassment to my favorite team. I guess if he had 2 years remaining on the contract then I'd feel differently because I see an end in sight, but we have 9 more years of him. I really am not looking forward to it.

I will still root, clap, and hope he does something big for the Yanks in a big spot, but outside of that, he's just a black hole of goodwill from my perspective.

11 zack   ~  Feb 20, 2009 6:40 pm

It still really really bothers me to no end that drunk driving isn't nearly the big deal that steroids seem to be for people. You want to talk about having a weak personality, bad judgment, making mistakes, or whatever you want, than you have to take a good, long, hard look at Joba Chamberlain and the rest of the many many sports stars who have been caught drinking and driving.

There is really no way, none, that you can excuse that while condemning Arod. It takes a far far greater lapse in judgment to drive impaired than it does to take 'roids. Joba put other people's lives at risk by his actions and the papers barely cover it. ARod gets caught up in his own vanity and he is crucified.

A-Rod deserves lots of blame, abuse, and ire for all the stupid things he does. But he's never beaten his wife, gotten behind the wheel intoxicated, gotten into bar fights, attacked fans, or any of the other countless despicable things that other baseball players and athletes have done and seemingly been forgiven for.

12 Yankee Mama   ~  Feb 20, 2009 8:40 pm

[5] Grateful Dead fan in the house. Welcome.

[6] Aikido Blackbelt from 18th Street?

Alex, what a beautiful post. You hit it out of the park. Whenever you share about your family, I feel you're talking about mine. My father did a lot of those things, although he did hold on to his marriage to my mother, who was the high functioning bread winner.. There was a disconnect between who he thought he was and who he really ended up being.

I think I rooted for A-Rod for the same reasons that you stated. What I realized about him in the last few days is that he has a special gift and while he's masterful is one aspect of his life, he is equally defficient in other areas. For every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction. In other words, he's flawed and no matter how much we root for him or send him good vibes his way, he messes up where we want him to excel. It's his nature, or so it seems.

That's why I choose to accept him for what he is, appreciate his talents and accept his penchant for poor judgement. What choice is there? And no, he doesn't beat people or act belligerently. He isn't snarky like Bonds, who is hard to like. He is someone who is his own worst enemy and when given the option will choose the road most dramatic.

I'm not going to let his self-destructive tendencies ruin my love for this team, the team I grew up, the sport I love and get light from. No, I won't let it happen. If I do, it will be a long nine years.

13 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Feb 20, 2009 8:43 pm

[11] Agree 100%. I'll always root for A-Rod, the guy lives for baseball. All that other tabloid crap means nothing to me.

[0] Great post as usual, Alex. Thanks.

14 rbj   ~  Feb 20, 2009 8:52 pm

[12] Nope, I'm in Toledo OH.

15 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Feb 20, 2009 9:19 pm

whoa..looks like a couple of Yankees got caught up in the Stanford bank situation and now have their assets frozen..now, Stanford is a guy who deserves the A-Rod media treatment!

16 Yankee Mama   ~  Feb 20, 2009 9:59 pm

[14] Saves me from trying to figure out who you are.

[15] Saw that earlier. Nady can't buy his apt. in NY and Damon can't make his mortgage payments. Which begs the question, why does that guy even need a mortgage?

17 OldYanksFan   ~  Feb 20, 2009 10:40 pm

Alex... more open, intimate, revealing writing. It's just so refreshing and endearing. It's so weird to be bombarded with all the MSM outrageous, self-righteous, indignant writing and then be able to come here to read somethong so real and honest.

Thank God the entire MSM market is headed in the toilet, while you, Cliff and the Bronx Banter continue to become a greater voice.

18 randym77   ~  Feb 20, 2009 11:04 pm

This is why I love this blog. I'm as interested in stats as the next person, but there is more to baseball than stats.

Me, I want A-Rod to do well because he's wearing pinstripes. But if he were to leave, I just wouldn't care what he did.

The guys I really root for are the young or marginal players whose future with the team can't be taken for granted. If Alex wants "fantastic, over-the-top, all-time greatness," I want to believe that even "ordinary" people can have moments of transcendence...a time in the spotlight that they will appreciate far more than the A-Rods of the world ever will.

19 Rich   ~  Feb 21, 2009 12:30 am

That's a great post, Alex, because it contains sentiments that on some level everyone can relate to.

To me, it seems that the line between success and failure is often very thin, which has also been the case with Alex Rodriguez during his time as a Yankee.

As I have previously posted, if the Yankees had won the 2004 ALCS and gone on to win the WS, the entire perception of A-Rod would be totally different.

After all, he hit quite well against the Twins in the 2004 ALDS (.421 .476 .737) and his stats v. Boston weren't bad either (.258 .378 .516 ).

I believe in redemption. I think A-Rod did what he had to do in order to put himself on a path for eventual redemption by merely confessing his prior steroid usage.

I also think that the guy is going to hit in the postseason and lead the Yankees to more than one championship.

Once the Yankees finally advance past the ALDS again, I think the weight will be lifted and the floodgates will open, unleashing A-Rod's natural ability in the postseason.

20 Chyll Will   ~  Feb 21, 2009 12:48 am

Wish he had the ability to surround himself with people in his professional life who actually gave a crap about him. He's almost like the ultimate little brother; sometimes you want to give him a big hug and protect him from harm, sometimes you wanna ring his freakin' neck or slap some sense into him (as an experienced baby brother, I know!)

But I begin to sense that his biggest weakness is his not-so-unfounded belief that absolutely no one gives a crap about him. Is that why he tries so hard to be liked? Who really knows. People respond to adversity in different ways, just like AB says.

21 randym77   ~  Feb 21, 2009 8:52 am

[20] I think Cynthia gave a crap about him. She even went with him to the press conference and held his hand.

Though I suppose that could be seen as proof of your assertion: the only friend he could find in his time of need was his ex-wife.

22 Mattpat11   ~  Feb 21, 2009 8:58 am

I think you can also make the argument that his behavior forces out anyone that does care about him. (Cynthia, Derek Jeter)

23 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Feb 22, 2009 1:58 pm

Beautiful and poignant, as usual, Alex.

Thank you.

24 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Feb 22, 2009 2:06 pm

[11] Ftr, I don't think anyone "deserves" abuse, but your point is taken.

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