Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Alex Rodriguez Psychoanalysis Chaos!

Well, it's been almost exactly a month since the last wave of journalistic masturbation about that embroiled sports figure condescendingly known as 'A-Rod'. You may remember last month's fracas; it concerned an extended hitting slump that involved a pile of strikeouts and went on for about a week. Or perhaps you remember the printstorm before that, the one about several Knoblauchesque throwing errors at third. It seems it's time to go again. Here's Tom Verducci's Bronx Zoo throwback report on Rodriguez's presence in the Yankee Clubhouse. The thing is spreading it's way around like the latest Bonds report: here's coverage from ESPN, Deadspin, The New York Times, and Yahoo Sports.
The new chorus of articles really adds to how we see this man. Verducci likens him to the "prettiest girl in high school who also gets straight A's". We learn the he "works too hard" and reflog the old clutch accusations. Of course, the man's signature praise makes an appearence: "for all his gifts, A-Rod may never be seen by Yankees traditionalists as worthy of his pinstripes." Just take a look a the pictures attached to these articles, and don't forget the contract, which should properly have moved into legend by now under some moniker like "Hicks' Folly" but instead has been wielded over Rodriguez's head ever since. Apparently he's a loner in the clubhouse, a place where Jason Giambi advises Joe Torre that "'it's time to stop coddling him.'" Here sits the lonely A-Rod, humming "I Am a Rock" to himself between lifecoach mantra recitals, reflecting on his many failures.I'm two weeks deep into an Intro to Psychology class at my local community college (incidently, this means I can get into MOMA for free). We've visited Freud and Pavlov, talked of Oedipus, child abuse, and insecurity. I feel that a large part of the whole Rodriguez situation, from the predictibly intermitent assults from the papers and radio hosts to the fan dissatisfaction, is due to this being a most termanology conscious society. Whether through increased schooling, Woody Allen, or the repetitive underlying themes and plots of movies and television, we have all become amateur shrinks. The public is now incredibly familar with issues of insecurity, masculinity, all manner of diseases, disorders, disabilities, conditions. The popular lexicon expands through formerly scientific words: obsession, depression, penis envy. More children are diagnosed with personality defects or sent to councilling now than ever before. Through my years of elementary and middle schooling ADD was emerging as something some kids had to go take daily pills for. The term no longer exists; it's now ADHD (I'm skeptical; wikipedia covers it). It sounds like a cranky generalization, but this society grows more interested in mental illness for every episode of House.
I can't add anything to the press about Rodriguez. Any argument about the man, whether defending or attacking him, follows the patterns of years of tossed off journalism and single at-bat overreaction. The pattern of the defense starts with his statistics, whether this year's typical excellence (.286/.385/.517, 34 hr, 114 rbi, best Vorp, 44.9, among AL 3b) or the astonishing career numbers (.305/.385/.572, 463 hr, certain Hall of Famitude). It moves to subtly suggest that the man has become an issue with uncomfortable undertones in both class (from the contract) and race (the last name). It then moves on to address the perceptions of sample size and clutchness that hound the man every day in the press and minds of fans, and then, more subtly, the psychoanalysis of it all, encumpassing the insecurities and mental complexity of both the man and the fan. We find that sports journalism has shifted from the character assassination done to Ted Williams and Barry Bonds to something else, the accululation of doubt of a star in the spotlight. The struggle over Rodriguez's reputation becomes a new, postmodern study of a celebrity and his mind by a semi-knowledgable population with a fondness for pseudo-medical proclaimations.
There's just nothing to add on Alex Rodriguez from either side. Repetition, from lurching attack to scrambling retort, has been the constant with him ever since, even I have to mention it, the contract, and especially the trade to New York. In the end, my rambling thoughts today were probably just as masturbatory as Verducci's insider tale.


Blogger Craig said...

It would almost be better for Rodriguez if he was simply a black hat, someone like Barry Bonds who the fans and media were okay with actively rooting against. And at the risk of enaging in my own amateur psychology about him, I think it's clear that he's thin-skinned and sensitive to criticism in a way that many top level athletes aren't, which makes the vultures that much more likely to pick at him. But my point on the Jeter piece holds true with Rodriguez too - all of this crap will essentially disappear in 25 years, leaving behind just the record of a spectacular baseball player, and perhaps a few regretful people who were incapable of appreciating it at the time. Considering all the teeth-gnashing that goes on about steroids, you'd think fans would be a whole lot warmer towards a guy who has never come under suspicion. I think this proves that most fans don't really give a shit about steroids except where it affects stupid fucking home run records.

(By the way, why the same picture?)

Wed Sep 20, 04:11:00 PM EDT  
Blogger David Bowie said...


I actually think you're wrong about Rodriguez's memory. It may take some gestured postseason heroics to 'clear his name' among Yankee fans, who are a strange and demanding bunch. While most have a very good grasp on baseball knowledge and especially history, there is a real 'true Yankee' attitude about a lot of people. Certainly individual week long slumps or pieces like this won't be remembered, but people will still think of him as a loser long after his seven or eight hundreth home run if he keeps having memorably bad postseasons (even if they can be defended statistically).

Wed Sep 20, 04:47:00 PM EDT  
Blogger David Bowie said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Wed Sep 20, 04:49:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Craig said...

Individual fan bases are able to hold onto a memory of a player that goes above and beyond his statistics - Tiger fans venerate Willie Horton, Red Sox fans think Bill Buckner's a bum. But fans at-large, in general, ultimately settle on a view of a player which is fairly well-represented by his numbers. Keep in mind that it's not just Yankee fans who have decided that Rodriguez is an overrated bum who can't come through in the clutch - this is the general view of him right now throughout the country. Yankees fans may feel the same way in 25 or 50 years, assuming things don't improve for the team and his performance in the postseason (fair or not) but his legacy among most fans will improve after his retirement.

Wed Sep 20, 05:08:00 PM EDT  

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