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Outraged at A-Rod? Take a look in the mirror, friend

Aug 6, 2013, 7:27 AM EDT

Image (1) alex_rodriguez.jpg for post 5479

Every time something like the A-Rod mess goes down there is a parade of outrage. From fans, from columnists, from talk radio hosts. You know what I’m talking about. Here’s a great, nearly-incoherent example from Scott Miller of CBS Sports.com. You’re going to have to bring your A-game if you want to out-outrage Miller. He calls A-Rod sub-human. For starters. Unless he’s merely putting on faux outrage for the page views, Miller is truly upset here and that anger is coming from someplace deep down inside. For what it’s worth, he has never struck me as someone who fakes things for page views.

I used to sit back for hours and mock this kind of sentiment but I’m not all that inclined to do that as much as I used to. Instead I’m more interested in trying to understand it. Because really, I have a tremendously difficult time understanding where such ire and vitriol at some nearly total stranger of an athlete comes from.

Here’s where I am right now: It’s not a matter of new school vs. old school. It’s not a matter of smart vs. not-so-smart. It’s simply a matter of there being two kinds of sports fans: those who hold players to a higher moral standard than people in general, and those who don’t. That’s it.

If you think of ballplayers as heroes or examples or believe that they are somehow obligated to be better than every other schlub on the planet — or if you were taught to think that as a child and still hold on to some of that whether you realize it or not — you’re outraged. If, on the other hand, you didn’t — if you saw them from even the youngest age as just people who are good at something weird and interesting and immensely entertaining — you can’t be outraged. Outrage makes no sense.

I certainly fall in that latter camp. I liked sports just as much as the next kid growing up and certainly love baseball now, but never in my life did I think of athletes as heroes or role models. Maybe that’s because I wasn’t handed baseball by my father or some other person I did look up to. It was introduced to me in a couple of places and I grabbed hold, but sports were not and are not any part of the lingua franca of my relationship with my parents or elders. At least not in such a way where anyone whose opinion I valued ever said to me, in effect, “look at that star athlete, my what a fine example he is.” In turn, to the extent my kids have gotten into sports I’ve never said such things to them, either literally or implicitly via the way I talk about or interact with athletes.

I realize I may be in the minority in this respect. Very recently I had a fairly spirited dispute with another baseball writer about these issues and — after we threw barbs at each other for a bit — we dug into the matter more. It seems he comes at things from a slightly different place. He has children who are really getting into baseball now. They have thrown themselves into it with abandon, to the point where they do get legitimately upset  when things go bad for players they like and uplifted when things go well. It’s probably a fantastic ride for them and I would guess that my counterpart’s bonding over sports with his children is on a totally different level than mine is. But, at the same time, it does require some veneration of the athlete to make it work, doesn’t it? And, in turn, if the athlete does not live up to the ideal, it almost necessitates some negative emotional response. The sort of which we see in these outraged sentiments from fans, the media, whoever. I’ve seen if from my counterpart recently, and it almost certainly has to come from some sense that these ballplayers are disappointing him or his children or both.

For my part, I can’t muster any of that. I don’t think A-Rod is subhuman simply because he lied and cheated. Indeed, that makes me think of him as quite human indeed, as human beings tend to act like that an awful lot. He’s only subhuman if you thought of him as something greater before.  Likewise, I can’t muster what is, in effect, “think of the children” rhetoric because neither me as a child nor my children now see these athletes as anyone special that need give us special consideration.  We love what they do when they are performing, but we don’t think of them as anyone who owes us special moral or ethical duties. That’s what parents and teachers and honest-to-goodness role models are for. Athletes are no different than actors or astronauts in this regard. People who do amazing things but whom we shouldn’t expect to be better people merely because of their station.

Does that mean that I don’t have opinions when an athlete falls short of some ideal? Of course not. It’s simply a matter of proportion. I can say, quite comfortably, when one of them does something bad that they have behaved poorly. Lied. Cheated. Broken the law. What have you. But I’m no more likely to get sent into an emotional tizzy over it than I am if I learned that some actor got busted for drugs or some singer slept around. I don’t approve, but I also let it go pretty quickly. I have my own moral and ethical life to worry about and that’s hard enough. Please just act/sing/play for my enjoyment, entertainer. I may critique your performance if you do it poorly, but the act is all I require of you personally. It’s different if one’s directly affected by the poor behavior in question — other players and teammates have a right to be truly angry if their personal trust or their livelihood was jeopardized by the A-Rods of the world — but I’ve not been harmed by them unless I let them harm me by giving them too much trust to begin with.

You may say that this is a sad viewpoint. That I’m a cynic. Some sort of disappointed, disaffected or jilted former idealist. I assure you I’m not. The thought of treating athletes as special people worthy and deserving of my trust and thus capable of breaking it has simply never been part of my life and never will be. Others, like Scott Miller and my correspondent of a couple of days ago come at it differently. Good for them, good for me.

With this framework in mind you can probably divide up all of the people who offer opinions on this stuff into those two camps pretty easily, actually. I can’t think of any other differences in understanding that better account for it.

191 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. macjacmccoy - Aug 7, 2013 at 11:45 AM

    Sorry Craig but your wrong, there is more then just 2 categories that fans can belong 2 in situations like these with athletes. I have a parent who talked about guys like Maddux, Staubach, Dorsett, and Landry like they were something more like they were something special. But I dont think that way. I for one do not look up to athletes or think that they are anything other then people who are better at 1 thing then most other peoples. But I still get angry when I hear about these superstars that cheated. Not because they let me down but because I’ve I had to listen to the media and others talk about them like they were better humans then everyone else. Maybe that’s not every players fault its the people that built them up in the first place. But most players relish that attention and feed into it. So when they prove how normal they really are it pisses me off. Where was this modest “Im just a normal guy who makes mistakes” attitude when everyone was saying how great you are? Oh that’s right it didnt exist until you got caught.

    Besides all that there’s also the lying. I dont who you are or what you’ve done, lying to me is going to piss me off. It doesnt matter if you ate my sandwich or took steroids, treating me like an idiot is going to annoy me. And dont tell me they arent lying to me because they are. Every public figure knows if a guy is holding a mic in front of you what ever you say into it is going to be said to the general public, just as if it was from your mouth to their ears.

    So Im not in the your my hero so I care if you cheat camp, and im not in the your not my hero so I dont care if you cheat camp. Im in the your not my hero but if you want to be treated like your something more then the normal person then be prepared to be treated like your something less then the normal person if your proved not to be so special and the dont lie to me and treat me like an idiot camp.

    • ilovegspot - Aug 7, 2013 at 12:48 PM

      WEll written. Craig is wrong most of the time. He just has to have content and add controversy to sell his garbage.

    • lawrinson20 - Aug 7, 2013 at 8:12 PM

      For someone of intelligence, it strikes me as odd that you can only see far enough to observe ‘two types of people.’

      How about, at least, a third type: The ‘fan’ who didn’t really hold athletes to the ‘idol’ or ‘hero’ standard, but who DO value their own fanaticism for SPORT itself. “Outrage” doesn’t have to co-mingle with ‘surprise.’ We are not surprised. But, we do experience a tremendous amount of disturbance when the games in which we get emotionally entangled are rendered invalid by cheating. It is a fact, no matter how sad: when the RedSox win or lose, i feel something. I’m happy to experience that. But, when i find that those emotions are perverted by greedy, dishonest, exploitative millionaires, i get upset.

      The (hated) Yankees won a World Series with ARod. Maybe — with a few fewer hits that year, or one home run less — they don’t win the WS. If you want to look at it simplistically, maybe i was robbed of an opportunity to feel something different (and altogether better) that year. Take it on an individual game basis, and you might see that the cheaters are screwing with what should be an exhilarating and honest experience every day.

      ARod is playing through the appeals process. Tell us how a Chicago WhiteSox fan would be expected to feel if ARod had beaten the Sox with a walkoff hit on the day he was supposed to be ineligible to compete? How would you reconcile that, and still enjoy the games?

      And, the games are only one aspect of a sports fan’s experience. There is the media worship, the promotions and marketing…. The huge cable contracts and accompanying cable bills that consumers foot so that the MegaTeams can afford the contracts….

      50 game penalty? 211 games? A pittance. How many games were won with ARod’s participation? How many seasons were ‘phony?’

      Now that i’m nearly done with this, i see that “macjacmccoy” has expressed similar feelings — probably more astutely than i have….

  2. ilovegspot - Aug 7, 2013 at 12:52 PM

    They have a recording of aroid convincing another player to go to bio g and roid too. BUSTED!!!!

  3. ginterparkguy - Aug 7, 2013 at 3:41 PM

    oh c’mon ! I do not hold athlete’s to a “higher moral ground”. Celebrities, athletes, “royals”, president of the united states (notice little p since I don’t like the guy) – they are ALL human – NO BETTER or NO WORSE than ANYONE else….they just happen to make more money than most.
    And – being in the “public eye’ – well…then you are setting yourself up for criticism…

    I could care less if A-Rod ever makes it back in baseball…I actually could care less about baseball and pro basketball to tell you the truth….

    athletes are NOT heros – never have been and never will be. If you define a hero as someone who can hit a baseball better than someone else…then you have serious mental issues. Our troops that FIGHT for us.(not the troops who are desk jockeys)..are heros…our firefighters, police, first responders, anyone who puts their life at risk to save someone else – is a hero. Everyone else…including athletes, celebrities, politicians…are just normal people

    • dsmaxsucks - Aug 13, 2013 at 11:24 AM

      You use the little p on president because you don’t like the guy. So why did you use little u and little s in united states? Communist.

  4. texassportsfan2 - Aug 7, 2013 at 5:40 PM

    I have to say that I agree with you, Craig, and do think along the same lines as you. But I wasn’t always like that. When I was a kid, I was emotionally invested in the game and the players (baseball and football). When something bad happened (a loss/upset, an injury, a player leaving my favorite team), I did get really upset. But as an adult, I know that what these profefssional athletes do or don’t do has no effect on me whatsoever. If anything, they seem to be make more mistakes than the average Joe (new to big money brings out the worst in most people). And on that note, the one thing that does tick me off is that ARod gets paid the equivalent of a small country’s GDP for playing a game that he cheated at! Yeah, yeah I know….life is not fair

  5. banggbiskit - Aug 7, 2013 at 6:57 PM

    Forgetting about the “cheating” for a second, ask yourself this. Who has done more charity work in his/her life, you, or Alex. Who has donated more time for children and more money for good causes, you, or Alex. Personally, i don’t have a problem with what Alex did because like the writer says, i dont have any preconceived notions that he’s a person of high moral character just because he can hit a baseball. Alex’s problem is with him and his employer not me (or you) and him.

    If Alex’s employer sees fit to issue him a certain punishment for things they deem against their rules, than i’m fine with what they decide, Alex will serve his time and come back with a new slate, i will accept what his employer deems a sufficient punishment and accept him back when and if he comes back.

    • lawrinson20 - Aug 7, 2013 at 8:18 PM

      That’s a BS rationalization. The “charity” work is as much a matter of Public Relations as anything. As well, it’s a matter of what an individual can afford, both in terms of time and money. If you made $250 million dollars and only worked 9 months out of the year, you could certainly afford (and you would be wise to do so) to hire a few people to conduct activities in your ‘good’ name. And, none of it would have a damned thing to do with the size of your heart, your caring, or your character.

      Instead of asking how much money was given, look at the character of the person. ARod has never shown himself to be a person of character. Balance his supposed charity work with his disgraceful ownership of properties and his absentee and negligent landlordship and you’re back below the ‘good human being’ dividing line.

      And, if you accept “what his employer deems a sufficient punishment,” you completely discount ethics and ulterior motives. The Yankees are a business. They will do what is best For Business. Morality is not a factor unless it becomes incidentally so. An example might be the New England Patriots. They released Aaron Hernandez because They Had To.

  6. messire3124 - Aug 10, 2013 at 1:51 PM

    til I saw the check for $7949, I accept that my brothers friend had been truley making money in there spare time from their computer.. there moms best frend started doing this 4 only 21 months and just now took care of the mortgage on their villa and bought a great Volkswagen Golf GTI. read more at going360.biz/?1=bo0375

  7. margie3124 - Aug 11, 2013 at 1:56 PM

    If you think Robin`s story is nice…, 5 weeks ago my mom basically also actually earnt $4700 putting in a fifteen hour week from there apartment and there classmate’s half-sister`s neighbour has been doing this for six months and made more than $4700 in there spare time on-line. use the advice available at this link… http://going360.biz/?1=bo0375

  8. jdillydawg - Aug 13, 2013 at 12:04 AM

    I think all the rage exhibited by writers and show hosts is basically Red Bull Rage. I mean, let’s face it, everyone has stopped writing about sports and can only focus on the drama that takes place between games. That takes a whole lot of creative energy which, of course, is fueled by the Bull. Too much Bull and, well, you know, things get bad.

    It was much easier when you could all write about how players played. Now you have to write about how they live, you have to question morality and the meaning of life, you have to gossip if you want to keep up, and you have to paint ugly pictures if you want to be seen.

    It’s an ugly business being a reporter. No wonder there’s so much anger.

    As for Scott Miller, though? Well, he just needs to get out a little more.

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