Once more, the Russians. Cue the righteous if not hypocritical sanctimoniousness rooted in moral judgment for any and all of you gearing up, or already worked up, over the prospect of 169 Russians, or thereabouts, headed to PyeongChang to take part in the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
Russia! Bad! Go away!
U-S-A! U-S-A! Win, win, win! Two-four-six-eight, who do we appreciate — yay!
Are we all, each and every one of us, clear on the concept? OK.
To continue the compare and contrast, this space hereby offers for consideration:
That would be Alex Rodriguez, the former New York Yankee third baseman. Quick recap: suspended for the entire 2014 Major League Baseball season, among other doping-related dramas.
On the one hand, we have the Russians seemingly slithering in to PC 2018 through what the New York Times has called a “side door.” The final number of Russians competing in Korea under the banner of “Olympic athletes from Russia” won’t be known until after International Olympic Committee action this weekend, to be followed perhaps a few days beyond by decisions involving Russian athletes from the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport. That 169 number is the Russians trying to get ahead of the story. Of course, over the past several months, the Times has been leading the crusade to keep the Russians out.
This would be the same paper of record that in 2016, upon A-Rod’s retirement from the Yankees, in a lengthy review of his baseball career, marked by 696 home runs, fourth on the all-time list, declared unequivocally that he had been “disgraced by scandals involving performance-enhancing drugs.”
Also upon A-Rod’s retirement, one of the paper’s longtime columnists, Harvey Araton, wrote:
“The Hall of Fame is another matter, along with the court of public opinion — again, best reflected not in any of those tainted players’ provincial home markets but in their tarnished national legacies, which even affect a new generation of stars more than a decade after the implementation of drug testing.
“ ’I honestly think there is a giant asterisk in baseball left over from the steroid era,’ said Kevin Adler, the founder and president of Engage Marketing, a Chicago-based sports company. ‘Fans are still fans, but outside of the home market, they still view the stars with a degree of cynicism.
“Think about it, Adler said: How often do we see baseball’s best and brightest in national marketing campaigns, in popular television commercials, compared with the likes of LeBron James and Stephen Curry?”
Let’s do think about it.
Let’s put the Hall of Fame thing aside. For those voted in, as Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman were this week, it has to be extraordinary. But if a lifetime in journalism has taught anything, it’s this: seeking to be appreciated by a bunch of journalists is just asking to be let down, over and again.
Better to be A-Rod.
Because if what’s at issue is, as per Mr. Araton, a tarnished legacy and a degree of cynicism, and as the Times' news pages flatly reported, disgrace — hey, sign me up, and immediately, for exactly that program of tarnished legacy, cynicism and disgrace, because in short order A-Rod has parlayed it into this:
— ESPN announced Tuesday that Rodriguez would be the new analyst on its Sunday Night Baseball telecasts, the network in a statement noting his “dynamic personality and incredible baseball knowledge.”
— This on top of the work Rodriguez already is doing as a post-season analyst for Fox.
— Which means he’s going to get paid by both Disney and Fox.
— Who does that? Seriously? Who?
— Well, A-Rod, who last May won a Sports Emmy, for Outstanding Studio Show, with the MLB on Fox: The Postseason crew.
— Oh, A-Rod is dating J-Lo.
— Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez were featured on the cover of December’s Vanity Fair.
— This week, Rodriguez appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Just like he did last summer.
So let’s see — disgrace, tarnished legacy and cynicism — check — just like we have with the Russians — leads to fame, fortune and a global superstar girlfriend.
When it comes to the Russians, indeed there’s righteous sanctimoniousness and moral judgment involved — but, like, just different?
Because the Russians are — different?
They’re not — us?
Which leads to this final question, and again to compare and contrast: what does the American veneration of Alex Rodriguez say about ... us?
Right. Hypocrisy. Check.