Alex Rodriguez: The Elephant In the Room

harry jamesCorrespondent IFebruary 17, 2009

Tuesday afternoon was just another day in the lives of many, but it was not just another day in the saga of Alex Rodriguez. The tainted slugger took questions from the media for the first time since he admitted to using steroids a little over a week ago. A-Rod addressed the situation as best he could, and yet the interview has left many still asking questions.

It is no secret going into the interview that Rodriguez would not be an open book. He was not much of one during last week's softball interview with Peter Gammons. His explanation was that he and a cousin from the Dominican Republic tried a substance, that was supposed to boost one's energy level.

Rodriguez and the cousin, who Rodriguez refused to identify, injected the substance roughly twice per month over the next three years. He stated that he was not even sure that the substance benefited him in any way or that he even injected the substance right.

But the explanation that A-Rod gave, led to only more and more questions.

Why would a self professed "health nut" put something in his body that he did not even know the benefits of injecting?

Why would a guy who thought he was not doing anything wrong, be so secretive about the whole process?

Why would a guy with such natural talent, who had a guaranteed 25 million dollars every year, take something to gain a competitive edge?

Rodriguez used the excuse that he was young and stupid. But it begs the question if that is all that it boils down to. I have no malice towards A-Rod, and I have neither loathed him nor loved him. But after watching both interviews, the reason is pretty evident to me.

Rodriguez can try and play the PR game that athletes like to play, but the problem is a situation that goes far back to the beginning of doping in baseball. Rodriguez, coming off of a $250 million contract signing, was afraid that not only would he be at a competitive disadvantage, but also that he would not be the best in the game.

As silly as that sounds to us, reports into his psyche within the clubhouse show a physically strong but mentally frail player, who needs baseball just as much as baseball needs him.

He was the consummate professional athlete who has nothing without his sport of choice. Many were not surprised the guy was doping, but it still begs the overall question into the problems with this situation and ones similar to it.

A telling answer from the interview was not where, why, and how he used steroids. The more telling answer was a little glimpse into our society. Rodriguez, when asked some of the aforementioned questions, responded with the typical answers but gave some insight into the young and stupid question.

The man under fire wished he would have gone to college.

How sad that the man who has everything, does not have a college education. It was apparent through out the whole interview Tuesday, that A-Rod may someday be in the Hall of Fame and hold the home run crown, but the one thing he will not have is anything else to fall back on, namely a college degree.

The neck injury, with Texas in the spring of 2003 that scared Rodriguez about his future, is a telling sign into the situation within today's athletic world. His fear, one felt by many everyday, has been a demon in the minds of the larger than life athletes. He was afraid of obscurity.

So he did what he did and took what he took. Now we are here today.

The sad truth is A-Rod is not the exception, he is the norm all over the professional sports landscape today. A system so apt on looking for the next superstar, sometimes creates the monsters like Jason Giambi, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Alex Rodriguez.

Guys who fear nothing more than being considered obsolete, broken down, or finished. They are so fearful, they turn to one of the cardinal sins of the game, doping with performance enhancing drugs.

I am not excusing what he has or the others have done. But maybe the game is just as responsible for these downfalls from grace. This is the game that takes Latino kids at the ages of 14, 15, or 16. This is the game that throws these kids into the limelight at a young age. This is the game that robs them of those valuable life lessons out of the spotlight, instead of learning those lessons in it.  Maybe steroids are not just the problem here, but maybe the game has its place too.