Let's be clear. I take A-Rod's side for one fundamental reason: He plays for the New York Yankees.
Yep. We need him. That's all. If he played for Boston, I would hate him. I would devote every stinking post to some negative aspect of his personality. But he is ours. And we need him.
By the way, I have no problem with a "for us" or "against us" dichotomy. I'm a sports fan, not the pope. Unless an athlete does horrible things to people - especially women and children - I don't pass judgments. The Yankees have suited up some wonderful human beings - Yogi, the Scooter, Bernie, Donnie - too many to mention. And there have been abominations: Mel Hall and Chad Curtis come to mind. Most players fall in-between. But they are Yankees.
Listen: One of the reasons why Alex Rodriguez is so roundly hated is the team he plays for. Don't get me wrong: He brought this on himself. But if he played for the Redsocks - with a fan base that made excuses for Manny Ramirez throughout his beastly career, (he once brutalized the team's elderly traveling secretary) and even now smiles at Manny's memory - does anyone doubt the moral fans of Boston would be as supportive as they now are hateful? Look at how "outraged" they've been at the Patriots use of deflated footballs. Are they calling for New England to forfeit the Super Bowl (as they have done for the Yankees 2009 World Series?) No way. And, frankly, nor should they.
Cheating to win in sports is NOT the same as beating a woman in an elevator.
Cheating to win in sports is NOT the same as serial homicide... or child abuse... or manslaughter... or bullying smaller and defenseless people. Or taking money to shave points or purposely throw a game.
Sports is a prism through which we project our loves and hatreds. It works well as a means to create heroes and villains out of faceless people, who are mostly differentiated by the caps they wear and the numbers on their backs. But sports is a lousy place to assign moral judgments. That's why I long ago became sick of pompous, self-righteous sportswriters - many of whom, when viewed up close, are Type A drunks and misogynists - who pretend to be moral giants in print. They are some of the biggest hypocrites that ever lived.
If a player performs well for the Yankees - without committing some ghastly crime - as far as I'm concerned, he has done all he needs to do.
And if somebody feels that I am less a fan, well, my answer is that I think they should find a more relevant place to search for justice.
Right now, Alex Rodriguez has nowhere else to go. He has one hope: To play well for the Yankees. In fact, he must reach a level of skill that few 40-year olds ever achieve.
But I do have one mini-judgment on players: I think it's wrong to hate a guy because he got old. You can want him to leave - as I did last year with Alfonso Soriano - but it's wrong to just pile hate on him. At the end, did we hate Mickey? Did we hate Bernie? That's a zero sum game, because eventually, they'll all lose to time.
Alex Rodgriguez cannot catch a break. Last week, they screamed that he needed to apologize. Then they screamed that if he apologized at the stadium, he'd create a media circus. Now, they scream that he apologized in a note, not in person. They will scream no matter what he does. They will scream, because that's what they do best.
The only thing that will shut them up is 35 home runs and 100 RBIs.
That's probably impossible. He's just too old. He's got two bad hips. It's absurd to think that he can come back. But, dammit, he's a Yankee. I'm rooting for him. And you should, too.