To refuse his cousin’s offer would have been unconscionably rude, not to mention weak, because it would have meant missing out on strength-building steroids.
MOLLY SCHOEMANN: Many years ago during a visit with family, my great-uncle told us he’d like to make dinner for everyone. On the menu? An extremely spicy stir-fry dish. My mother pulled me aside for a brief discussion prior to the meal. At the time, I was a notoriously picky eater, and she was worried that I would embarrass her at the table in front of our relatives.
“Listen to me,” she hissed. “I don’t care what he makes; I don’t care if you don’t like it. YOU. WILL. EAT. IT. No matter what. Understand?” I understood. And at dinner, I choked the meal down politely, although my mouth was on fire. It’s a well-known if unspoken rule that you should be on your best behavior around extended family, particularly if you don’t see them often. If they give you a birthday present you’ll never use, take you to see a movie you hate, or recommend that you ingest an unidentified substance, who are you to rock the boat? They’re family!
It is thus not difficult for me to appreciate why A-Rod allowed his cousin to inject him with an unidentified substance—he was clearly being polite. To refuse the offer would have been unconscionably rude, not to mention weak, because it would have meant missing out on strength-building steroids. At the very least, Rodriguez would have risked being grounded.
Without a doubt, Alex Rodriguez found himself in a complicated situation with this particular cousin. Still, I understand why he did what he did. Some questions have no easy answers, particularly questions that start with, “Do you want to hit the ball further? Here, give me your buttocks.”
Really, what was he supposed to say to his cousin that fateful day and then twice a week for three years after that? “What are you injecting into my ass?” Or perhaps, “Some substances are banned by the Major League Baseball Players Association and my career could be ruined if I’m discovered using them, so maybe this is a bad idea?” How would THAT have sounded? Imagine the lack of trust—in his own flesh and blood!—that such a reaction would have implied? It would have broken his mother’s heart to know that she raised the kind of son who would look a gift syringe full of mystery liquid-gift in the mouth.
Why don’t we also insist that Alex tells his Grandma Ethel that he actually hates her Noodle Kugel? How about we make him tell his Aunt Janet that he never wears the snowflake sweater she knitted him for Christmas? How about that? When it comes to standing up to family, where do we draw the line? Alex didn’t know—but can we really blame him?
In a way, A-Rod’s choice was admirable—he chose to follow his family over following the regulations which governed the sport that rewarded him with an extremely successful career. A-Rod knew which side he wanted to be on. After all, you don’t spend Christmas with the Major League Baseball Players Association. And do you think they give a damn about your vacation slides? In a world where it sometimes seems like people will do anything to get ahead, thank you, Alex Rodriguez, for reminding us that family should come first.
Alex Rodriguez has killed the American family.
HOWARD MEGDAL: We’ve all been there- a family member, buoyed by the idea that our shared bloodlines make refusing impossible, ask something unreasonable of us. An unemployed uncle wants a loan. A drunken great-aunt wants to drive your car. A cousin wants to shoot illegal drugs into your buttocks.
Alex Rodriguez, by refusing to set the proper example, has emboldened every family’s scam artist for the next twenty years. No family gathering will be safe. No reconnecting phone call will be calm. A-Rod has killed the American family.
Rodriguez has also cast a shadow over every nicety we bestow on even deserving brethren as well. If I give my cousin a place to sleep at night after her house burns to the ground, she’ll take the help- but she’ll wonder, is this out of love? Or is it simply, in a culture that saw Rodriguez cross the family-always line, was I simply trying to keep up?
The most upsetting part of Alex Rodriguez’s sin is that he clearly, at no point, thought of the children. What younger brother or sister won’t bravely charge into the closet late at night, determined to fulfill an older sibling’s wish to “make sure the monsters are gone”? For the monster-less closets, that’s fine, but how many little lives will be lost investigating closets filled with gremlins, zombies, or zombie gremlins? More than the 762 home runs Barry Bonds hit, that’s for sure.
As Alex Rodriguez himself has said, he was “young and stupid”. Truly, this kind of trust in family is. As a child, one imagines A-Rod pondered the largely rhetorical question of an elder brother bully “Why do you keep punching yourself?” If he’d taken as much time to consider the audacity of his cousin’s request, America could have avoided this retrograde example of familial tragedy.