By Jason Keidel
New Yorkers are born with the arrogant certainty that when God created the Universe, he started with Times Square. The rest of the trivial landscape came sometime between Day 2 and Sunday.
It's gibberish, of course, but the eyes of America are indeed on the five boroughs these days, particularly the Bronx - the vortex of the steroid galaxy, at least to the Baseball Gods - where a certain, biblically humbled slugger will make his home debut tonight at Yankee Stadium.
No matter your motivation, chances are you will tune in at least for part of the soap operatic return of Alex Rodriguez: A-Rod to many of you, Alex to his few remaining friends, and "Mr. Rodriguez" to his eternally irritated GM, Brian Cashman.
Ticket sales and TV ratings have sagged all season for the Bronx Bombers, who have largely bombed this season, but have spiked since Rodriguez limped back to the lineup. The change in interest speaks to the more macabre side of the human spirit, and how many are there to cheer and jeer can't be quantified.
But there is an element of voyeurism to the whole thing. Pharmacy racks are stacked with rags devoted to our darker impulses. The National Enquirer doesn't report on the dad who drove his son to soccer practice, unless he smoked marijuana in the car.
There's nothing more gripping to the masses than to watch the epic fall of a disgraced icon. The world is giving A-Rod the finger while he plunges into purgatory, to a furious chorus of betrayed fans who thought he was the white night of a new era.
At first we forgave his more superficial malfeasance - the sunning in Central Park, the illegal poker games with Spider-Man and DiCaprio, telling Esquire that his former BFF (Derek Jeter) was overrated, smooching his reflection in the mirror, flying a stripper around the nation while married, and defecating on the 2007 World Series by announcing his contract status...
Because he was supposed to bring clean veins to the game, his bat doubling as an eraser over the tainted stats of his juiced-up predecessors. McGwire, Sosa, and the fraudulent Summer of Sammy left a wretched taste on our tongues for a decade, and we looked up to A-Rod as the avatar of fair play.
How's that going?
Who would have thought that Jose Canseco would be the bard of the steroid era? Love or loathe his methods, Canseco has been right about everyone on the business end of his book and beyond. Barry Bonds had a two-inch treatise written about his 'roid regimen, all the way down to the dosage. Yet you didn't see one libel suit.
And now A-Rod is just another name on the endless list of bandits who have hijacked our pastime, synthesized the record books beyond repair. Ironically, he made his 2013 debut last week, on the very day his 211-game suspension was announced. You can't make this stuff up.
There's something to be said for karma. Teams that try to buy pennants tend to find a way to foul it up. Look at the Yankees, who were muscled into making A-Rod another contract offer in '07 after he announced during the World Series that he was opting out. No one offered half as much as the Yankees wound up paying him. Had they just let him walk, the Yankees' future would be exponentially brighter, cheaper, better.
You'll notice that the Yankees have won just one world championship since they became the Evil Empire - an infamous moniker spawned in 2003 by the Red Sox brass after the Yanks bought the gifted Cuban pitcher Jose Contreras. And ever since then, A-Rod has been the face of Pinstriped Pride and peril, of voracious capitalism, of Gordon Gekko gone wild. Turns out you can spend your way into relevance, but not into royalty. Just ask Alex Rodriguez.
But he will be there tonight, in the Bronx, to an unsympathetic home crowd, and an even less empathetic world. Alex Rodriguez chose his lot, his No. 13, and his position, the Hot Corner, where he has presided on and off the diamond his entire life.
Feel free to email me: Jakster0529@gmail.com
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