Alex Rodriguez is addicted to greatness.
I’m sure if I tried hard enough, I could rearrange that sentence into something that would make a great guidance counsellor’s office poster. Maybe something with an eagle, wings spread, cresting a mountain peak?
But that would only perpetuate the folly behind such a statement.
Being addicted to or dependent on anything, even something as connotative of high social standing like greatness, is a bad thing.
Greatness is a lie.
It’s entirely based on perception. Once you commit to achieving it for the sake of it, you are entirely at the mercy of others’ opinions and, after prolonged exposure, it stops being about what you’ve done to deserve being great, but the opinions themselves.
And this is where A-Rod is now. This is A-Rod’s brain on drugs *cue A-Rod’s brain frying on the hot pan of social acceptance.*
It’s a vain struggle to control the opinion of others. It can be manipulated, but it’s never locked into a solid state.
A-Rod can talk like the destruction of his reputation doesn’t bother him, but it all rings hollow. Especially since, in order to make these claims of not caring, he runs off to radio shows or magazine writers to be sure everyone knows he doesn’t care.
And yet, as strange as it sounds, I find that I understand him on some deeper level.
Perhaps it’s because this need for social validation is hard-wired into all of us?
It’s natural, even ethical to concern ourselves with the opinions of others.
Moments of simply existing, crying and giggling to garner unconditional love are brief. Once they go, they are replaced by the constant work that is conditional love, the economy of pleasing others in order to be pleased ourselves.
And, if I may take this one step further, we have done an effective job at building a society where (though it’s fashionable to denounce it) we value money, fame and accomplishment as the chief qualifying factors for our notice of others.
A-Rod’s talent just allows him to get bigger doses of a drug we all want.
Even so, A-Rod will cease being relevant. The drug will get cut off. For some, that moment lands like a snowflake and for others its impact is liken to a civilization-ending meteor. I have a feeling it will hit A-Rod like the later.
ESPN’s Buster Olney made the A-Rod to Citizen Kane analogy early on during the Biogenesis/A-Roid scandal and it’s an apt one.
But Citizen Kane was not the first story to put a status-driven individual in a position of power only to show him he would have been happier living simply and obscurely, surrounded with less distractions and more genuine, unconditional care.
I suppose it’s of little comfort for A-Rod to know he’s not alone, that his story is a timeless one. Citizen Kane, William Randolph Hearst, Howard Hughes and so many others that rose to power but forever remained a pawn of popular opinion.
In fact, in a moment of deep personal reflection after his 51st birthday, Tolstoy stopped to consider why his life as a rich, respected, world-renowned author felt so empty. War and Peace, and Anna Karenina had made him a god in the literary world, earning him the title “greatest of all living novelists.” Yet, poor Leo couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that all the remarkable goals he’d achieved weren’t really his goals to begin with.
Tolstoy had an amazing, nearly unparalleled literary career. But, at age 51, it had done nothing to fill the bottomless pit that is measuring personal satisfaction against a society that only cares about what you’ve done for them lately and has no use for you once you stop.
Tosltoy realized that doing things purely so others will acknowledge you as great was a broken road with a dead end.
Sadly, it’s one so many of us rush to get on.
I once said I could respect A-Rod’s fellow cheat, Ryan Braun. I said it because if he truly didn’t care about what others thought and he cheated just to become rich, it was a masterful ploy to further his own agenda and accumulate a sizeable fortune at the expense of inflating the bubble market of his own reputation.
If he went into it knowing he would be irrelevant once he stopped producing anyway, so he might as well be rich, I’d tip my cap to him.
Of course, no player ever plots this all out ahead of time. But just think, if a player in Braun’s or A-Rods situation could walk away from it all without so much as looking back to see the faces of those he’d betrayed… well, I’m not so sure he wouldn’t be one of the strongest me I’d ever known.
The Biogenisis scandal has been, among other things, an interesting window in the soul of the superstar. It’s also been an interesting window in the soul of the fan.
I’m tempted to say that all of us, in one degree or another, are in consensus that fame and wealth do make a person better and more deserving. If we didn’t, I don’t think there would be such a push to cheat.
Heck, if we didn’t do such an effective yet abominable job of mixing wealth, fame, and character together like one begot the other, we might all be so happy cheating wasn’t necessary.
But it’s not to be. There will always be cheaters and fame addicts and those who care more about manipulating opinions than the actual things they accomplish.
There will always be A-Rods, so we might as well turn the page.