By Jared Max
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* Writer's Note: In order to be fair to Alex Rodriguez, before writing this I employed an acting method which has served me well when discussing sports figures I find unfavorable. I tried to trick myself into believing that Rodriguez's mother and his two daughters were standing behind me, reading over my shoulder. This is a similar ploy I have used on the air with folks like Carmelo Anthony and Roger Goodell. To guard against appearing too harsh or unkind, I once made signs to post in-studio that read "Carmelo is my cousin" and "Roger Goodell is my uncle." Using such context, disgust can be weighed against empathy and compassion.
I marvel at people who can submerge themselves so deeply into character that they become illusionists; able to make an audience forget there is an actor behind the mask.
Dustin Hoffman did it in "Rain Man" and in "Tootsie." Sean Penn has tricked me, too. It turns out that Jeff Spicoli was also Harvey Milk. Tom Hanks transformed from bachelor Rick Gasko to Forrest Gump. Then, Captain Phillips.
When I think about Rodriguez, one movie that comes to mind is "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation." A-Rod doesn't remind me of any particular character in the movie, but rather an inanimate object: jelly. Specifically, Rodriguez is the Jelly of the Month Club -- "the gift that keeps on giving the whole year."
Once again, the most talented baseball player to systematically destruct his own career has provided us with another juicy tale.
Less than one week after Rodriguez completed the longest drug-related suspension in MLB history, the New York Daily News uncovered a new A-Rod scandal on Monday.
Two months before he was sentenced to a 211-game ban (reduced to 162 games plus the postseason), it was revealed by the Daily News that the 14-time All-Star paid his cousin $900,000 in an attempt to buy his silence regarding incriminating information related to Biogenesis.
Despite everything that I learned about identifying and translating facial microexpressions from one of my favorite TV characters, Dr. Cal Lightman in "Lie to Me", I have never been able to recognize when Rodriguez is lying.
Is A-Rod a better actor than Tim Roth? While I would place my left hand on a bible, raise my right hand and declare that I believe Rodriguez is a pathological liar, I am wondering if it goes deeper than this. Is he a sociopathic liar?
While doing research for this story, I came across a post on the website compulsivelyingdisorder.com, which, in part reads: "Sociopaths lie the most because they are incapable of feelings and do not want to understand the impact of their lives. They may even get a thrill out of lying at your expense.
"Once they tell an initial lie they go on to tell many more lies in an attempt to cover up the lies they started, or just for the 'fun' of it ... A sociopath rarely reveals his or her feelings or emotions. You won't often hear them laugh, cry or get angry."
This last line triggers a strong memory from 5 1/2 years ago in Tampa, when the 39-year-old's only option to continue playing Major League Baseball was to confess about his suspected steroids use. He had his script before him, with a standing-room-only sized audience of reporters, team personnel and several Yankees players on hand. Alex performed a read-through but was unconvincing, despite his dirty tricks.
As I read at compulsivelyingdisorder.com, "If someone questions the sociopath's lies, they can be incredibly devious in the way they cover things up.This can include placing the blame at someone else's door or by inventing complex stories to cover up their untruths."
That day in Tampa, Rodriguez introduced the character of his "cousin," an obvious attempt to deflect responsibility. The three-time MVP tried to pardon himself by lessening the seriousness of anabolic-steroids use by referring to them as "Tic Tacs," which he said he decided to try when "I was 24. I was 25. I was pretty naive and pretty young."
With all due respect, A-Rod, that excuse rarely works for a six-year-old. A grown man afforded every American right (except being in a cheaper auto insurance tier, maybe) looks transparently foolish when he tries to absolve himself like this.
In his opening statement, Alex spoke of his and his "cousin's" relationship with steroids: "We did everything we could to keep it between us, and my cousin did not provide any other players with it. I stopped taking it in '03 and haven't taken it since."
Desensitized to reality that morning in Tampa, nobody knew how much bull was steaming under our noses. Who could decipher truth from fiction when a confessional is delivered by someone like Rodriguez?
Describing sociopathic liars, compulsivelyingdisorder.com states: "These kinds of liars tend to live in their own little world and often find ways to justify their dishonest deeds. They do not respect others and place their needs first and foremost."
Again, I am reminded of that surreal day in Tampa nearly six years ago. Seated under the Yankees' tent outside Legends Field with hundreds of other reporters, I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing out loud.
If you jump to the 4:25 mark of this video below, you will see Rodriguez attempt to express remorse to his Yankees teammates.
As hard as he tried to convey the emotion contrition, Rodriguez's acting skills escaped him. He seemed robotic, incapable of emotion. It wasn't until four-plus years later that we saw A-Rod show his teeth, finally. Feeling his back against every wall closing in, he stormed into WFAN with his attorney to proclaim his innocence and belief that a conspiracy was present to destroy him.
While that afternoon last September will remain a low point of Rodriguez's career, we got to see a seemingly unfiltered, unplugged, unscripted performance. We saw emotion. I thought of the Hollywood boxing trainer telling Rocky Balboa that he could penetrate the wall of Ivan Drago, "You see? He's not a machine! He's a man!" Hardly a man of his word, but, a man nonetheless.
As he has given his fans and detractors one more reason to never believe what he says, I wonder how this may affect Alex. After all, this is the guy who -- despite being gifted the physical attributes to possibly be the greatest baseball player ever -- still felt a need to be recognized and adored, sunbathing shirtless in Central Park.
Three years after that photo was published, the slugger allowed Details magazine to release a photo of him that he posed for, which undoubtedly labels him a narcissist.
Because I have never witnessed a more talented sports superstar who seems as fragile and uncomfortable in his own skin, I have publicly voiced concern for A-Rod. What might his life become when a professional baseball diamond is no longer available to find solace? The only answer that makes sense to me is signing up for the Stella Adler Studio of Acting.
Rodriguez is a natural at convincing audiences of almost anything. Can he take things to the next level like Robin Williams, who was Mork and Mrs.Doubtfire? Like Robert DeNiro, who long before becoming Jack Byrnes was Jake LaMotta and Al Capone? Like O.J. Simpson, who long after becoming the NFL's first 2,000-yard rusher arguably delivered the most committed performance in Hollywood history?
No, not as Officer Nordberg.
* By the way, I am aware that I failed this acting lesson. Every time I tried to envision Rodriguez's loved ones reading over my shoulder, I got distracted by truth.
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