Was I shocked this weekend when it was revealed that Alex Rodriguez, arguably the best baseball player of his generation, [allegedly] tested positive for steroids in 2003?*
One of the things I've discovered in my relatively short life is that anyone is capable of anything. I think it's my job as a minister that gives me a better vantage point from which to declare this, as I see people not only at their best but at their worst. We pedestal people far too often, placing them above the fray, so that when we discover they're actually human— we're crushed. I've been guilty of this numerous times in the past and am finally getting to the point that where I find no hidden vice shocking.
I've never been an A-Rod fan, but I've never been a hater either. I admired his immense skill, especially in the midst of cheaters. And I constantly felt sorry for him because he seemed uncomfortable in his own skin.** He is the coolest kid in class, but doesn't know it.
Look at his off-the-field actions over the year and you see a guy that is desperately trying to solidify his social standing. Why date a past-her-prime Madonna? Because someone might be impressed. Why tear down other teammates through the media? Because the worst they look, the better you appear. From what I heard on the radio earlier [I have no link to this], the steroid A-Rod took was actually a cosmetic one; apparently, it wouldn't bulk him up to hit the ball harder, but would improve the way his body looked. If this is true, it proves my assertion that he has a low-self image. Yes, friends, the man that supposedly every man wanted to be and every woman wanted to be with, is terribly insecure.
And for all of us, even for those non-baseball fans still reading, there are a couple of valuable lesson here to learn here. First, just because a person seems to have it all-together doesn't mean they really do. Just watching the Grammys last night reinforced this. Even the coolest people in the world continually try to maintain/create their own relevancy. What did Paul McCartney need to prove last night that he needed to perform an old Beatles song? No matter what McCartney does now could increase his standing as a part of his band. But he, too, wants to still be noticed. Like A-Rod, he just wants to be loved. This is why I believe that the most healthy self-image is one grounded in Jesus. If I really believe the teachings of Scriptures, my self-worth is centered in Christ, so I should know that I truly AM LOVED. Leave it to me to go from steroids to the Beatles to Jesus, but I sincerely believe this to be true.
The second lesson I observe is in relationship to the broader issue of steroids in baseball. Among the steroid-users that we've discovered in baseball, it's dominated by names who were already star athletes, poised for baseball immortality. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens didn't need steroids to make it to the Hall of Fame. They were the best of the best, and yet they could not control their competitive drive when it came time to decide if they should cheat. No matter who you are, nor how much talent or resources you have, the temptation to take a shortcut is always enticing. If anything, in my view, this cements Ken Griffey Jr as the greatest player of the past two decades. Sure, I was frustrated at his performance here in Cincinnati, but a cheater he wasn't.***
All this right as pitchers and catchers report next week. It's too sad. I'm just hoping baseball will survive so that my kids when be at least somewhat interested in it.
* While this is still only allegation, my belief in its truthfulness is bolstered by the fact that A-Rod has remained silent. If a rumor like this were false, he would've been on ESPN within the hour to refute it.
** Someone might suggest the feeling sympathy for a person who will make over half-a-billion dollars in his career is ridiculous. I would counter that holding this perspective is just as classist as looking down on the impoverished. People are people, no matter what they have or don't.
*** The Reds have stayed relatively clean throughout this steroid witch-hunt. Even though there was one obscure Cincinnati Red in the Mitchell Report who used, he had previously spent some time in New York and that's how they nailed him. I tend to think that the Pete Rose/gambling/personal trainer relationship which caused his banishment from baseball led local people who would deal 'roids to back away from the ballclub all-together fearing authorities getting into their business. Then there's the tale of Brett Boone who was a twig when he was here in Cincy, left town, bulked up, then hit almost 40 home runs in a season. While Boone denies it, he'd better hope he's not another one of the names on this 2003 steroid list.