Alex Rodriguez: Tragic Hero? (Part II)

“Fair is foul, and foul is fair.” – The Witches of Macbeth

This started as an essay called Alex Rodriguez: Tragic Hero. I had noble intensions for it; I was going to compare A-Rod to Macbeth. I would have matched A-Rod’s time in Seattle to Macbeth’s glory as a military hero. I would have talked about how Scott Boras was his Lady Macbeth, encouraging him to take the money from Texas (or slay King Duncan). I would have argued that once A-Rod did go to Texas, his insecurities about the circumstance led him to steroids, and eventually the living hell that is New York and its media. Kind of like Macbeth’s raging paranoia on the throne. I didn’t have a match for the fortune telling witches, but otherwise the whole thing was going to be beautiful. Then I remembered this was a blog, not a high school essay.

(If it were a high school essay, the thesis would read something like this: So and So defines the tragic hero as a sympathetic protagonist who is undone by his own flaws or mistakes. Baseball player Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod), is a tragic hero because a blind, overwhelming desire to be loved by everybody has caused him to make some significant mistakes and hurt his reputation. The main example of this is his use of steroids.)

So I’ll just pose this as a question: Is Alex Rodriguez a tragic hero, well-intended at first but undone by one catastrophic flaw? Maybe. He’s certainly a wounded hero, hardly the knight in shining polyester who sat above even the great Jeter and Garciaparra on the triumvirate of convention-shattering shortstops in the 90s.

Where he’s gained status as an all-time great hitter, he seems to have lost it as a champion of the sport. First, he took the money with Texas. Then he got himself shipped to New York and did the honorable thing for his pal Jeter by shifting over to third base. The rest I don’t need to get into –the regular season dominance and postseason struggles are fresh in all our minds. The clubhouse dramas and marriage problems, and now the steroids are fresh too.

But what’s guided all this behavior? I think back about the excerpt I started with in the last post, from the poet Cody Walker:

When I was younger I wanted to be a baseball player. But I can’t remember whether I loved baseball, or whether I just wanted everyone to love me. A confession, then: I still want everyone to love me—blindly, entirely, without sense or reason.

Which motivates Alex Rodriguez? His love for baseball, or his desire to be loved? The answer is probably a lot more complicated than either choice. Money fits in there somewhere too, and a whole litany of subtle factors I probably couldn’t understand. But more than greed or competitive lust for victory, it feels to me that Rodriguez has been guided by an unquenchable desire to be loved, praised, adored.

If his tragic flaw (or at least self-damaging one) really is an addiction to Praise, Adulation, and Worship, then maybe it all makes sense. Maybe his crucial error was somehow letting his own sense of humanity get intertwined to unrealistic notions of heroism. Maybe it was the high off all that admiration that so skewed his understanding of consequence. Fair is foul, and foul is fair. Will heroism itself be the undoing of Alex Rodriguez?

Part III coming when it comes…

2 Responses to “Alex Rodriguez: Tragic Hero? (Part II)”

  • “Where he’s gained status as an all-time great hitter, he seems to have lost it as a champion of the sport.”

    This is what puts the premise in question to me, in that I don’t think A-Rod ever “lost it,” but instead he never in fact was a baseball hero, in the Jeterian and Ripkenian sense of the term.

    To me, he’s always been this great hitter who can’t get anyone to think that he’s a hero at all. We watch him as a kind of a walking stat-maker, an enthralling anomaly, rather than a compelling figure in the unfolding human drama.

  • I understand what you’re saying; A-Rod never had that Ripken folksiness or Jeter smooth. But I still can’t help thinking of him as a hero. Maybe it’s because I grew up as a fan as he exploded as a player and he came of age as the phenom on those easy-to-love- Mariner teams of the 90s, but I still see him that way. Maybe heroism is subjective. One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter right?

    As to your second point…I see the sort of lack of humanity in A-Rod, but it’s hard to walk past a New York news stand not to find him a compelling figure in the unfolding human drama. Regardless, it’s definitely worth exploring whether I’m totally off base, and he’s hardly the hero to tohers that I make him out to be.

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