Baseball’s Bernie Madoff

It was a matter of time, I suppose, before we were going to learn that baseball’s Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez tested positive for steroids. The highest paid player in the game, A-Rod has usually represented “addition by subtraction” for whatever team he left, and instant also-ran status to whatever team he joined, despite being, statistically, one of the greatest players in the history of the game.
While it would have been no dishonor to have won no World Series rings with the perennial also-ran Seattle Mariners or the perennial not-very-good-at-all Texas Rangers, for a not insubstantial period of time, A-Rod has brought his “clutch hitting only when it doesn’t matter” ways to the once-mighty New York Yankees, who, last season, failed to make the playoffs for the first time in well over a decade.
But while his personal greatness on the field never somehow correlated with his team’s actual success, fans put up with A-Rod and his obscenely disproportionate compensation because at least he didn’t cheat like Bonds, Sosa, Clemens and McGwyer. And now, it seems, like financial-fraudster-for-the-ages Bernie Madoff and his patina of respectability… the patina was false, and A-Rod… was a God-damned cheater like everybody else.
While people like George Will go on endlessly about baseball’s steroid storied status in our culture, I think it’s about time once and for all to note that the world’s game happens to be soccer (the sport in which I coach my daughter and a dozen of her contemporaries each spring)… not baseball. I used to suggest that baseball was the sport of “kick-ass countries” (the United States and Japan… and, I suppose, Cuba, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic) whereas soccer was the sport of… other countries. Well… it seems I was wrong… our “kick-ass-ness”… at least as it has existed for the last 28 years (when we as a nation voted against Jimmy “Eat Your Damned Vegetables” Carter in favor of St. Ronald “No, No, Jelly beans Will Meet All Of Your Nutritional Needs” Reagan)… has been as much of a fraud as we have learned that much of our economic strength has been.
As our fantasies about heroes and celebrities and money-managers and everyone else who is more rich and famous than us are shattered one by one… will we have the appropriate collective reaction (that would be anger, to the point of pitchforks and torches)… or have decades of dumbing down, medication and the mollifying effects of high-fructose corn-syrup and “reality” television finally turned us into a culture of vegetables (in attitude, rather than diet)?
We will see, is all I can say. I’m just not betting on anything good to come out of any of this. Look for A-Rod to be unapologetic about any of this, and to come back next season with 50 meaningless home runs, 160 meaningless RBIs, and the Yankees to finish 5 games out of the playoffs, while continuing to draw his immense paycheck. Because that’s what it’s come down to.