Alex Rodriguez: A Tragic American Hero

It is a story that has been covered from head to toe. Almost everyone has given their two cents on the man and then some. All the while, I sat back and watched it all unfold. I read other blogs, Sports Illustrated and ESPN the Magazine stories and listen to the numerous amounts of opinions. Now it’s my turn. Personally, Alex Rodriguez means a little bit more to me than the guys on talk radio and ESPN. Yes he cheated, he lied and he is a fraud and probably will never be in the Hall of Fame. But a lot of people forgot about the in between. I didn’t. Here’s my two cents on A-Rod, for better or for worse.

A typical Thursday for my fourth grade class at Churchill Elementary School consisted of going to the school library and checking out a book to read. My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Hodkinson (RIP) noticed that I was having trouble finding a book that would interest me. She knew that I loved sports more than anything, so she pulled out an autobiography on a baseball player. The baseball player was Alex Rodriguez. I read the book 7 times. The book talked about A-Rod from childhood to then the present. It talked about how he skipped the opportunity to play College Baseball at the University of Miami and enter the draft at 17 where he was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the first round.  I admired the generosity to spend is first pay check on a brand new car for his mother. As a young baseball player myself, I dreamed of being like Alex Rodriguez. A High School prodigy that was named the top prospect across the country and then becoming a Professional Baseball player before becoming a legal citizen, he was living the dream every little boy wanted to live.

At the end of fourth grade we were asked to hand write a letter to our idol. Many wrote to people like J.K. Rowling or Pop Music stars. I wrote to Alex. Somewhere in my closet, under all the collected papers and dust sits that letter. I wrote how I read a book about him and he inspired me to be the best Baseball player I could be and someday be able play in the MLB, just like any other kid. Summer came and went, and on the first day of 5th grade, my teacher Ms. Salerno handed me a orange folder. Inside was a signed picture of A-Rod in his new uniform as a New York Yankee, my favorite team. I heralded it as the greatest moment of my young life (Obviously I do not know if A-Rod actually read my letter or what was written back, written by him, but I was 8 at the time so let me have this moment) To this day that picture is framed and sits on my desk in my room and goes unnoticed most days, but I’ll never sell it.

When Rodriguez started playing full time at shortstop for the Mariners, he became the next “it” athlete. He hit .358 with 36 HR’s in his first full season in the show all the while turning himself into one of the best fielding shortstops to ever play. He went to Texas and hit 156 HR’s with an Avg. of .305 in just three seasons. Easily winning Home Run titles and Gold Gloves on a bad team and putting his name in the same sentence as Maris, Banks, Ruth and DiMaggio. I followed every game and At Bat as much as possible and when he went to the New York Yankees my happiness was at an all-time high. Since the day I stepped onto a baseball field, I was going to be a center fielder, yet I played infield (SS and 3B) because he had that much of an impact on me. A-Rod was destined to be the greatest there ever was, youngest to do this, youngest to do that. Bound for 800 HR’s, the most ever. In a time when Baseball was taken over by controversy over PED’s and HGH it was great to see someone doing all this the right way. That’s what we thought.

In 2009 when the reports came out that A-Rod used steroids while in Texas, I wasn’t devastated or angry. It was about the team in 2009. It was about the Yanks finally getting their 27th and Alex his first. But it hurt. I admired a cheater. Yet this world gave everyone a second chance, so A-Rod got his and won his first World Series while finally playing well in the Playoffs after being notorious for playing terrible in October. He didn’t fully win me back, but I forgave him even if most people hated him for being overpaid and cheating in an age when everyone did. Today, A-Rod is an example for me, for better or for worse.

After being accused again of using PED’s this January, I almost ignored it. I am indeed disappointed to find out that it is all true but I am old enough now to understand the way the Tragic Hero works in American Sports. There is the rise, then there is the pedestal in which we place a superstar athlete on, where he is being watched every second, then the fall. For A-Rod, the fall is much more tragic than most. The promise, the potential all  pointed towards the greatest of all time. Injuries and PED’s have derailed all thought of that and his stats all seem to be thrown away even if they are in the record books for good.

Growing up, I put Rodriguez too high up on the pedestal. But I was too young to understand. I’m not going to defend him in the case that he is innocent and that he isn’t a fraud. He is. He cheated and made a whole lot of money out of it and ruined his reputation in the process. He tries to make himself look like someone who can be a role model and a good guy even after all this and most people aren’t buying it. But maybe outside of Baseball he is a nice guy trying to do good, but I wouldn’t know, nor will I ever. But what I do know is that we are all hypocrites. Cubs fans who booed A-Rod, you do remember that your pride and joy Sammy Sosa corked his bat and was on the Juice? San Francisco Giants fans, Barry Bonds lied and committed federal crimes, yet you cheered him on his way to break Hank Aaron’s record. Red Sox fans,  you won two World Series’ led by Manny Ramirez who cheated. Of course the only thing that makes people forget about all that stuff is winning.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the second game back for A-Rod after being suspended for 211 games. As he walked up, I watched what little of the White Sox faithful is left, boo him all the way through is at bats. As I sat there I asked why? What did he do to you that alter your life so much that you had to boo him? Yeah he cheated and people like to make things interesting so I get it, but in perspective they’re a lot worse problems to be worrying about than A-Rod’s return.

Tonight in Boston I watched the Boston faithful terrorize him with boo’s and derogatory signs. The first pitch was thrown behind him followed up with one right to the elbow. The place went nuts with cheers. Benches cleared, and Joe Girardi was tossed for standing up for a man he probably doesn’t like that much anymore. While A-Rod could have charged the mound and ripped off Ryan Dempster’s head, he stared at him, then walked to first without saying a word. Of course Alex was mad, but you didn’t see it on his face. A-Rod could have hid for the rest of the night. Done nothing and let Fenway Park get the best of him. Instead in his 3rd at bat he launched a dead center bomb off Dempster that would change the game into the Yankees favor. The Yankees are far back in the division and Wild Card race, but every team needs a spark. Is this their spark? Maybe. But what A-Rod did tonight is something we can all learn from. He had his back against the wall and could have crumbled. He could have called it quits when he was suspended and just retired. Instead, he showed no emotion and fought back. Watch the Home run he hit tonight and listen to the crowd right when the ball hits the bat. Fenway hasn’t been that quiet in a while. It was only a split second, but I’m sure the Yankees and A-Rod enjoyed it.

He cheated, he lied and he is trying to cover it all up. So what does Alex Rodriguez have to play for anymore? He is career? It’s coming to an end. Money? he has plenty of that at this point. No one is really sure, but at this point, he’s playing for the love of the game and trying to help the Yankees make the playoffs.

Something a young boy out there like I was once was, can admire. For better, or for worse.


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