“I’m fighting for my life,” Alex Rodriguez told reporters yesterday. “I have to defend myself. If I don’t defend myself, no one else will.”
Against what? Too facile to see him only as the archetype of a me-generation that overrides any team sense in sports or life, driven by a bottomless need for more adulation, more money, more women into pointlessly breaking all the rules in pursuit of some cosmic more to burnish his image for the ages.
Now, as all that blows away in self-made ashes, A-Rod’s total self-absorption morphs into a kind of moral stupidity unknown in previous times.
Contrast him with Gehrig in 1939, dying at age of 36, reducing a Yankee Stadium full of fans to tears, “I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement...
“When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so that you can have an education and build your body, it's a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed, that's the finest I know.”
The Gehrig who died with such grace left behind on the playing field a record of accomplishment that A-Rod never matched and now never will.
“It can all lead to a contract that surpasses the gross domestic products of some nations,” writes Doug Glanville, a former player turned columnist. “But as the drugs give your stats greater value, they take away everything else...Numbers mean nothing when you stop knowing what they are actually counting and why.”
David Brooks adds: “Locked in a cycle of insecurity and attempted self-validation, their talents are never enough, and they end up devouring what they have been given.”
As so many parse A-Rod’s prideful downfall, a healthy dose of Lou Gehrig’s grace and humility could help restore our sense of balance.