Alex Rodriguez played his final game last night.
I’ve always been drawn to the controversial and unpopular players. I’ve written about A-Rod and Bonds and Clemens and all of those guys a lot and I defend them more than almost anyone in my line of work does. It’s not about really liking them. I love watching them play, but I don’t really think much about them personally. When I do I often don’t think too terribly much of them. Some of them did some pretty bad things off the field separate and apart from baseball and that all counts too. Believing that great athletes are great people will steer you wrong more often than it will steer you right.
I think I write about them a lot out of a desire to defend and advocate that never really left me even after I left the law. It’s not reflexive or contrarian — I believe what I say when I defend them and their records — it’s more about overreach. It’s not enough for an athlete’s critics to say he cheated or was a dubious character. They have to paint him as truly evil. Same goes for someone they like. If what a player does on the field is good there is a tendency to say, implicitly or explicitly, that he’s a good and admirable person.
That’s ridiculous. I don’t believe that baseball accomplishments or baseball transgressions make a person good or evil. Good and evil is for real life. Sports are just a small part of it.