All Puffed Up

By Bob Gaydos

“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
— John 8:32
Alex Rodriguez is a prisoner of his own mind. Blinded by pride — the mother of all sins — and unable to speak, perhaps even to see the truth, he has managed to turn what might have been the greatest baseball career of all time into a traveling sideshow of contradictions, disappointment and lies. So many lies.

So engrossed is he in protecting what he regards as most important in life — his image of himself — he could not even allow a confession of wrongdoing, a moment of humility, to be simply that. Exposed by a reporter as one of baseball’s growing number of steroid users, Rodriguez had the good sense not to deny what was evident. Yes, he had used a substance for three years when he was playing in Texas, he said.

“I screwed up,” he said at his recent press conference. He was “young,” he said. He was “naive,” he said. He was “stupid,” he said. It was a “loosey-goosey” period in baseball, he said.

Were you cheating? he was asked. “I’ll leave that to others to decide,” he answered.

Of course he was cheating. That’s the whole point of using illegal performance enhancing drugs — to gain unfair advantage against one’s peers. It doesn’t matter if others were doing it as well, it was cheating. And when he told Katie Couric on TV that he had never used steroids, he was lying, because he thought the evidence would never be made public. And by his own admission, he only stopped using steroids when Major League Baseball instituted a test and penalties for steroid use. There is nothing admirable in that.

Nor was there a lot to admire in his confession/apology. He gets points for saying he did it, unlike others who continue to deny. But if that’s the case, why did he need a prepared statement to read to the press? Just tell your story. This is not a stupid man. This is not a naive man. He was no kid when this happened. This is a world class superstar whose physical condition is his fortune and whose private life is front page news as much as his baseball exploits are back page news. He knows what he did. He knows how many times he did it, how he did it. Why he did it. It is not believable to say otherwise. He probably remembers every home run he hit in Little League, every touchdown pass he threw in high school, yet he would have fans believe he did not remember the first time his cousin, or whoever it was, injected an illegal substance into his buttocks, where it happened, what it felt like and what the drug did for him as a baseball player?


Maybe the only genuine moment in his press conference came when he began to thank his teammates for showing up to support him. He choked up and couldn’t say anything for half a minute, finally managing a “Thank you.” The toughest skeptics have claimed it was staged, that he was acting. I don’t believe that. I believe that Rodriguez, a man so unused to letting down his guard and showing genuine emotion in public was truly overwhelmed by what he had to know was a strong display of support that he did not deserve, something he could only imagine giving in lip-service terms. After all, he had betrayed these teammates, cast further doubt on the performance of all baseball players and, as he has ever since coming to New York, made everything all about himself again.

Of course, the Yankees need Rodriguez to perform well on the field and he has nine years left on his contract, so they would like him to perform in a manner befitting the highest-paid player in the game. Judgments on the records and the Hall of Fame can wait for now while he tries to salvage his reputation. That will not happen if he continues to nourish his pride and protect his ego. Half-measures will not do.

Which brings us to the so-called rehabilitation of A-Roid. The Yankees and their third baseman announced simultaneously with the press conference that he would be lending his support to the efforts of the Taylor Hooton Foundation to combat steroid use by young athletes. The foundation was established by Don Hooton after his son, a high school athlete, became seriously depressed from taking steroids and committed suicide.

And just what is Rodriguez going to do for the foundation? Give it money? Fine, it can use it. That’s easy. But, hey, Mr. Rodriguez, didn’t steroids help you get that $300 million contract? Didn’t they help hook you up with Madonna? So what’s your message to high school and college athletes? Don’t be naïve, don’t be stupid, don’t mess up, don’t get caught?

Why is it wrong to use steroids without a prescription, Alex? Are there serious physical risks? Mental risks? Do they become addictive? Besides being illegal, is it unethical? Does it rob you of your self-worth? Does it diminish your accomplishments? Is it for crying out loud, cheating? And does it leave you, ultimately, worrying solely about how you appear to everyone else and utterly clueless about who you really are?

Until the greatest ballplayer of his era can answer those questions honestly –and he hasn’t even tried yet in public — he has nothing of value to tell young America.
* * *
“In general, pride is at the bottom of all great mistakes.” — John Ruskin

“And the Devil did grin, for his darling sin is pride that apes humility.”
— Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“Pride attaches undue importance to the superiority of one’s status in the eyes of others; And shame is fear of humiliation at one’s inferior status in the estimation of others. When one sets his heart on being highly esteemed, and achieves such rating, then he is automatically involved in fear of losing his status.” — Lao-Tzu

“Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall.”
–Proverbs 16:18–19

Bob can be reached at


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