Stolen Chances

I consider myself a forgiving person. But “forgiving” doesn’t mean “patsy.”

No, Alex. No. No. No.

You know the guy I mean, I’m sure. Sometimes it seems like everyone on the planet knows Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez, New York Yankees superstar. And to not know about his fight with big-league baseball over performance-enhancing drugs – well, you might not quite have to live under a rock, but it would at least require a unique focus on young Prince George to the exclusion of all else.

He’s been told to leave the game until 2014. He’s appealing.

But he’s not very appealing to me.

I don’t want him back in the game. Not in 2014. Not in 2015. Not ever.

As far as I’m concerned, he’s done.

I know, there’s this little business of innocent until proven guilty. A-Rod hasn’t admitted guilt. Under different circumstances, that’d carry weight with me.

Except he has admitted guilt. Not this time. But a while back, when he confessed to using PEDs between 2001 and 2003.

Old news? Price paid? Move on?

Sorry. Not that easy. Not for me.

We’ve been here before, though last time it was dogs, not drugs. Back in 2009, after the NFL star Michael Vick finished serving his prison time for dogfighting, I made it clear that while I wished him luck in starting a new life, that that life shouldn’t be anywhere near professional football.

“I believe in forgiveness,” I wrote then. “But I also believe in consequences. And some doors don’t open twice.”

For me, the case here is just as clear-cut. A-Rod used stolen ability to win baseball games. Possibly now, certainly then.

In my field, there’s a special word for using abilities that aren’t your own in order to get ahead. It’s called “plagiarism.”  And if I go there, I can be fired.

Worse yet. If I go there, I can probably forget finding a job in this field again. And I don’t really want to go back to bagging groceries.

A-Rod committed the athletic version of plagiarism. He let us watch talent he falsely claimed was his own.

Going easy just because it’s easier to replace my job than his doesn’t make sense. Trust was still abused.

And in the end, this is all about trust.

I think that’s what has made every new drug revelation so disgusting even as the accusation becomes so familiar. We trusted that we were watching Alex Rodriguez, or Lance Armstrong, or Mark McGwire. That we were witnesses to something special, lightning in a bottle not captured twice.

Well … there was something in a bottle, all right.

My first newspaper editor once told me that all a paper has to sell is its credibility. When that’s gone, the paper’s done. I think something similar is true of professional sports. If the stories it writes are nothing more than drug-enhanced fairy tales, we might as well be playing video games instead.

Maybe this is a lot of time to spend worrying about a kid’s game. But that’s part of it, too. The nation’s security doesn’t exactly demand that A-Rod stay in pinstripes. Just the security of the New York Yankees’ bottom line.

I think I can live with endangering that.

I know. I’m not the commissioner. I’m not the authorities. I’m not anything except one more baseball fan, tired of all the chemical cheating, who just wants to get back to enjoying the game.

But that’s what sports comes down to. If the fans stop watching, everyone stops playing. And to some of us, that’s sounding less painful every day.

So hang up the bat, Alex. Say your say, whether in defiance or apology. And then, please, go.

It’s time.

It’s past time.

It’s now.

One Reply to “Stolen Chances”

  1. Thanks, Scott! As a teacher, I am seeing an alarming rise in cheating and plagiarism. This is an article I will share with my students who don’t quite believe they could lose their job over “plagiarism!”

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