Hunting Alex Rodriguez for sport has been America’s favorite pastime for nearly a decade; and I’ll admit, he often presents a tempting target. His fling with Madonna alone reaffirmed my belief in God’s raucous sense of humor. And then of course this was like stumbling on a vein of pure comedy gold.
But Blogland is all in a self-righteous uproar today over A-Rod’s visit to a Maryland high school to talk to the students about steroid use. The word “hypocrite” is being tossed back and forth across the Internets like a beach ball at a Dodgers game. And this time it’s not fair. Rent a ladder and get down from your four-story horses, people.
Rodriguez appeared at Millford Mills Academy on Tuesday and talked candidly to the students about his steroid use:
“One of the things I said in spring training is I wanted to turn a negative into a positive, and I meant that,” said Rodriguez, who has admitted to using steroids from 2001 to 2003 while with the Texas Rangers. “And then the other thing I kind of vowed to myself is I wanted to play more and talk less. So that’s that.”
The main charge against A-Rod here is hypocrisy. How could a rich and famous baseball player, who seems to have benefited from steroids, have the temerity to show up at a school and tell kids not to do what he did? After all, he’s dating actresses, he needs a dump truck to haul his loot, and he has no long-term effects from going to the juice.
But here’s the funny thing about long-term effects: They don’t tend to show up right away. If A-Rod began taking steroids in 2001, I hardly think that the verdict is yet in on the prospects of his long-term health.
If this were an attempt to begin to rebuild his image, Rodriguez would have been much better served going the Hugh Grant route and booking a guest appearance on Jay Leno’s first show in the 10 p.m. slot. Or, you know, shed a few tears on Oprah’s sofa. But he didn’t do that; instead showing up at a high school and appearing all the world to be, what’s the word I’m looking for … sincere.
“I am here today simply because I made a mistake,” Rodriguez said, according to a transcript provided by Powered By Me! “Now, how many of you here have made a mistake? Well, I’m here because I made a mistake, and one of my missions in life is to turn a negative into a positive.
“And to actually tell the truth, it feels pretty darn good and liberating. It is very important to me professionally and spiritually. At the end of the day when we look into the mirror, we learn from our mistakes, it’s something we should feel proud of and become a better version of ourselves.”
Rodriguez, according to Powered By Me!, opened his remarks with the following: “As a kid, my favorite player was Cal Ripken Jr. Has anyone here heard of him?”
His opening line followed a hush from the crowd when Rodriguez’s name was announced, according to athletic director Joseph A. Sargent.
“It was kind of a surprise,” said senior LaTasha Dunston, 17, who plays volleyball and basketball, and runs track and field. “You wouldn’t expect for him to be as humble about the situation. … It was good because not only is he a really good role model, he’s a good role model that messed up and is willing to turn around.”
(OK, this was pretty funny, too)
My main objection to all those who say steroids in baseball is no big deal has always been that kids look up to athletes, and with that great power comes great responsibility. While it’s true that Rodriguez didn’t express any regret until he got caught, he’s coming forward now in a straightforward manner, and like he said, trying to make some good out of a bad situation.
He could have donned the Harry Potter invisibility cloak on all of this, as you might expect a superstar in his position to do. But instead of dodging the questions, he chose to dodge tater tots in a high school cafeteria. That counts for something, right? Let’s leave him alone on this one.