"Hell may have no fury like a woman scorned but heaven hath no sweetness like a sports fan vindicated." - Samcat

Monday, February 09, 2009

Whole New Can of Worms

(Photo from ESPN.com)

So you may have heard of this latest kerfuffle involving that Alex Rodriguez fellow and his alleged positive steroids test is 2003. You know, maybe. Not like there's been any news about it or anything. He's not really a high profile player or anything. They tend to keep these things on the down low. Certainly don't resort of "GERMANY SURRENDERS" level headlines in the newspapers and on the interwebs or anything. Calm and measured, that's been the response. Yes, siree.

But here's the thing - and you may not expect this from as rabid a Red Sox fan as myself - but this is bad. This is all-around bad. Bad for A-Rod, bad for his current and former teams and bad for baseball. So despite what might seem obvious for someone who usually delights in the schadenfreude of all things Yankee and Yankee-adjacent, I'm not actually happy about this. There are a number of reasons, of course, not the least of which being that I would be ecstatically happy if we never had to talk about steroids in sports ever, ever, EVER again, but also because there are other names on that list. And while A-Rod may be the biggest, he's surely not the only one who holds impact. And sure, I'm afraid of what Red Sox players may or may not be on the list as well, but more than that, I'm disappointed with the fact that an entire generation of kids now has a tainted idol. Now, especially, on the heels of Barry Bonds' recent shenanigans and just when we thought we might have a clean future home run king. Sure, A-Rod is prickly and temperamental and sort of seems like a miserable human being most of the time who maybe needs to take a page from Lebron James' playbook and realize that he plays a little boys' game for a living most of us cannot even fathom. And, you know, look like he's enjoying himself once in a while. And sure he's prone to fits of slaptastic ridiculousness and his behavior often makes him the butt of many jokes but, I don't know...I don't take any delight in this. I mostly just feel sad.

I can't be the only one, can I? Despite all that I've said - and I'm sure, will continue to say - about Alex Rodriguez, I've never once questioned his talent. A-Rod has always sort of been one of those players on the fence, personality-wise, in the sense that, unlike Barry Bonds, you could always find someone to defend him. Bring up Bonds and his questionable years of dominance and most people would feign an intense interest in their shoelaces or suddenly remember they left the iron on. With A-Rod, you could always find someone willing to engage in debate. And the thing is, they weren't wrong. That's why it was always such a good debate.

And that, I think, may be the tragedy of this whole thing when all is said and done. That is, of course, assuming we ever reach an end point with this. Baseball, more than any other sport, is the most static, the most unchanged, the most classic. As such, discussions and arguments about the relative merits of players through the ages have always seemed more valid than those about other sports. We'll never know, for instance, whether the 2008 Patriots were better than the 1972 Miami Dolphins, but we can venture an educated guess about A-Rod's comparisons to Ripken or whether or not Babe Ruth could have taken Roger Clemens deep. And whether or not steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs actually do affect one's performance in a tangible way is not really the issue here. The issue is that we will never know and that not knowing clouds all discussions and arguments and barroom displays of one-up-manship.

As a Red Sox fan, I'm perfectly happy to see A-Rod fail at the plate or in the field. I take delight in his E5 fielding miscues or his non-clutch playoff performances. I even snicker when he seems unable to get out of his own way at times as though the pressure in New York is eating him alive. But as a baseball fan, I take no delight in this current revelation. Not because it could just as well be one of my guys (and may still be), but because baseball is supposed to be - bucolic and idealistic though it may seem - one of the simple things in life. We are supposed to argue about on base percentage vs. batting average and the merits of Moneyball. We're not supposed to have to preface everything with discussions about syringes or doping cycles. It's supposed to be simpler than that.

What I think it comes down to is that personally, I love the game of baseball so much, that continued coverage of this sort of thing runs the risk of de-legitimizing it as a sport and I can't stand to have people hate or dismiss something I love so much. Maybe that's it. Maybe I just feel like this - whether it be A-Rod or anyone else - does untold damage to something I care deeply about. Surely there are other players who feel the same way and who want nothing more than to just play their little boys' game.