Skip to content

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Chris Perez opts out of minor league deal with Brewers

    Apr 27, 2015, 11:19 AM EDT

    chris perez getty Getty Images

    Perez posted a 9.39 ERA in six appearances for Triple-A Colorado Springs.

  2. They Rays have yet to play a game in an outdoor stadium

    Apr 27, 2015, 11:03 AM EDT

    Rays logo

    “Outdoor baseball is stupid, and domes should be universal. My column:”

  3. A month later, there’s still no timetable for Justin Verlander’s return to the Tigers

    Apr 27, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT

    Detroit Tigers' Verlander reacts after leaving the game against Texas Rangers in their MLB American League baseball game in Arlington Reuters

    He hasn’t thrown since cutting short a bullpen session 10 days ago.

  4. Jeff Loria says there have been no serious discussions about firing Mike Redmond

    Apr 27, 2015, 9:24 AM EDT

    mike redmond getty Getty Images

    The Marlins lose: rumors of the manager being on the hot seat. They win: he’s safe. That’s the sort of reaction that stable teams run by wise men pursue, right?

  5. Pitchers batting is dumb and the DH should be universal

    Apr 27, 2015, 8:34 AM EDT

    adam wainwirght getty Getty Images

    And no, I don’t say that just because Adam Wainwright has been lost for the season due to an injury sustained while hitting.

  6. And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

    Apr 27, 2015, 7:09 AM EDT

    John Farrell Dustin Pedroia AP

    “Can you pitch, Dustin? Like, every fifth day? I’m serious.”

  7. Jose Abreu joined select company with his 162nd career game

    Apr 26, 2015, 11:05 PM EDT

    Jose Abreu Jose Abreu

    Jose Abreu, one might say, is good at hitting baseballs.

  8. Max Scherzer thinks the National League should adopt the DH

    Apr 26, 2015, 10:15 PM EDT

    Max Scherzer Max Scherzer

    Max Scherzer made an argument for bringing the DH to the National League.

  9. The market for Cole Hamels is getting bigger

    Apr 26, 2015, 9:25 PM EDT

    Cole Hamels Cole Hamels

    Perhaps Phillies GM Ruben Amaro was right to hold onto Cole Hamels.

  10. Alex Rodriguez hits 659th career home run, now one shy of tying Willie Mays

    Apr 26, 2015, 8:39 PM EDT

    Alex Rodriguez Alex Rodriguez

    Alex Rodriguez hit his 659th career home run on Sunday night against the Mets, leaving him one shy of tying Willie Mays.

  11. Video: Alex Gordon dives into the stands to make the catch

    Apr 26, 2015, 7:45 PM EDT

    Alex Gordon Getty Images

    Alex Gordon made an exceptional catch to help Edinson Volquez in Sunday’s game against the White Sox.

  12. Orioles score 18 runs against the Red Sox, setting a new club record

    Apr 26, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT

    Manny Machado, Rey Navarro Manny Machado, Rey Navarro

    The Orioles set a club record for runs scored and the Red Sox starting rotation continues to falter.

  13. A’s sign Ryan Roberts to minor league contract

    Apr 26, 2015, 5:17 PM EDT

    ryan roberts getty Getty Images

    As first reported by Jeff Hem, the play-by-play announcer for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds, the Athletics have signed veteran infielder Ryan Roberts to a minor league contract.

  14. A’s option fifth starter Kendall Graveman to AAA

    Apr 26, 2015, 4:22 PM EDT

    kendall graveman getty Getty Images

    Graveman allowed six earned runs in 4 2/3 innings Saturday in a loss to the Astros, falling to 1-2 on the season with an 8.27 ERA and 2.02 WHIP in 16 1/3 total frames (four starts).

  15. Dodgers place Yasiel Puig and Joel Peralta on the DL

    Apr 26, 2015, 2:58 PM EDT

    dodgers logo

    Two important Dodgers are now on the shelf.

  16. Max Scherzer doubtful for next start due to thumb injury

    Apr 26, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    scherzer getty Getty Images

    Scherzer jammed his right thumb during an at-bat Thursday afternoon against the Cardinals. It doesn’t sound like a serious injury, but the $210 million right-hander isn’t going to be rushed back.

  17. Jose Bautista hopes to return early this week

    Apr 26, 2015, 1:02 PM EDT

    jose bautista getty Getty Images

    Last week, it looked like Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista might be headed to the 15-day disabled list with a right shoulder strain. He has now missed five straight games, but the news Sunday was good …

  18. Navy lieutenant Mitch Harris made his MLB debut

    Apr 26, 2015, 12:15 PM EDT

    mitch harris getty Getty Images

    Cardinals right-hander Mitch Harris is the first graduate of the United States Naval Academy to appear in a major league game since 1921.

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. D. Smyly (2971)
  2. Y. Puig (2950)
  3. D. Travis (2910)
  4. M. Saunders (2887)
  5. B. Zobrist (2768)