Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Our Latest Obsession

Image credit: Screenshot of Google News by Cujo359.

This week, it's not a missing bikini model, it's a muscular guy in pinstripes that America is obsessed about:

Eight days after admitting his steroid use in a television interview, Alex Rodriguez offered more details in a news conference after his arrival at Yankees spring training camp on Tuesday. With dozens of teammates standing nearby and roughly 200 reporters watching, Rodriguez said he and a cousin obtained the drugs in the Dominican Republic and injected them for an energy boost.

“My mistake was because I was immature and I was stupid,” Rodriguez said. “I blame myself. For a week here, I kept looking for people to blame, and I keep looking at myself.”

Rodriguez Answers Questions About His Drug

I love baseball. I'm already getting excited that spring training's started, and that in a few weeks there will be baseball, possibly even on broadcast TV where I can watch it occasionally. Even so, to me this story doesn't matter. It's old news from so long ago that the last effects worked their way out of Rodriguez's body five seasons ago. Yet, this story is such a wonderful microcosm of the last couple of decades, I suppose it's worth a look on that basis.

As Rodriguez has alluded, this all started when he joined the Texas Rangers as a free agent in 2001. He had scorned the mere $10 million a year or so that his old team, the Seattle Mariners had offered, for an unprecedented $20 million a year that the Texas Rangers offered him.

Let's stop here for a moment and consider. He thought $10 million wasn't enough to stick with what was then a very successful franchise, and instead head to the losingest team in its division. So let's do the math here. You earn $10 million. The government gets roughly a third, so you're left with $7 million or so. Put that in a bank at 2 percent interest, which is a reasonable rate of return, and you're earning $140,000 a year in interest. Most of us could live quite comfortably on that. Yet this wasn't enough for A-Rod.

After taking this new job at a more acceptable salary, Rodriguez started to feel some added pressure to perform well. A new park takes some getting used to, even for a hitter, and it often takes a while to get acclimated. He decided to try steroids to enhance his performance. If his statistics are any indication, it didn't work. His average and home run production stayed about the same for his first two years, and then fell in 2003 and 2004. Those years are the years after he stopped using the drug, according to Rodriguez. If anything, his stats may have suffered thanks to the aftereffects of the drug.

Yet, the news seems to be obsessed with this story. It's the second story, right after the stimulus package, on Google News right now (see the image at the top of this article). Yet it's really about a guy who was paid an unreal amount of money to play a kid's game who cheated, partly because he was being paid an unreal amount of money.

OK, we've dealt with this now. Yes, he was greedy and self-involved. Yes, he cheated. Can we get back to what's important? This is important. This matters to us in our everyday lives. And this certainly matters. Can we pay attention to these things now? As emotionally satisfying as it might be for some, belittling someone for something he did five years ago, not too successfully I might add, while playing a game isn't going to matter to anyone in a few days, let alone five years from now.


Dana Hunter said...

It's displacement behavior. So much easier for people to worry about atheletes drugging themselves several years ago than deal with the cacophany of crises piling on them. And, alas, our nation's media is all about the displacement behavior....

All of which explains how we could get into this mess with only a few lonely voices sounding the alarm. If we don't get over our addiction to shiny things, we're never going to be able to resolve serious issues.

Moving to our own island nation with carefully selected residents looks better and better every day....

Cujo359 said...

Perhaps it's displacement behavior, but it's been going on for a long time. Remember all the anguish over Barry Bonds? Not saying there's no reason to be concerned or irritated over his behavior, but I was starting to think Congress would pass a law banning him from the Hall of Fame.