Alex Rodriguez and Kobe Bryant: So Alike, So Unlikeable

Alex McVeighSenior Analyst IJuly 8, 2008

Since A-Rod's personal life is currently splashed across every major media-outlet, this seems like an opportune time to examine who exactly Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez is, and why we all love to see him go down in flames.

Let's first look at another modern athlete who is faced with a similar image crisis, Kobe Bryant.

Both men play for historically significant franchises, whose age of dominance seems to be fading away rather than getting closer.

Kobe is a very polarizing athlete, while A-Rod isn't as complex. Yet, the problem with Kobe is simple: he's a phenomenal basketball player, but he's a douchebag (I believe that's the technical term).

He may treat his wife well, he may be a great guy to be friends with, but for all intents and purposes he's a douchebag.

And people always say about Kobe, "Well, he just wants to win, and you know, Jordan wasn't liked either." Well, that's only half right.

The thing about Jordan was, winning was No. 1.

With Kobe, it's 1B, behind 1A, which is, he wants to be the leader of the team.

Jordan was unquestionably the leader of his team. Jordan might have jockeyed for leadership status if he had been lucky enough to have such a teammate. Yet, in the end he would be happy with simply winning.

If Jordan and Shaq played together (wow, take a minute to think about THAT), there is no way Jordan would have driven Shaq off because Shaq helped with the titles; and titles equals fun in Jordan's book.

Kobe wanted to win, but he wanted to be the leader more. He didn't want to be second fiddle to Shaq. Now he's in the phase of his career where it seems like he is torn between the need to be liked (hence the shots of him kissing his daughter after every playoff game) and the need to be the Black Mamba.

And that's where the root of Kobe's image problem lies. You can't have it both ways, and there's one thing that nobody likes, someone who flip-flops (i.e. John Kerry).

When Kobe scored 62 points in three quarters against the Mavs, it seemed like he might be able to break Wilt's record, but he would need the ball every play. Instead, he tried to back off handing the ball out to teammates. As a result he didn't get the record, and was criticized for it.

When he came back almost a month later and dropped 81 on Toronto, people were more happy to see such a feat than they were upset that he hogged the ball in a meaningless January game.

Kobe just doesn't have the social instinct to know when to go for it and when to back down. As a result, he often does the opposite.

Bill Simmons made a fantastic point on his podcast a few weeks ago when he brought up the possible reasons for Kobe's situation.

His upbringing was anything other than standard; growing up in Italy and getting drafted straight out of high school. It is the kind of life that was never even close to being normal.

As a result, Kobe seems to have people problems. It makes him a fascinating study, one that I could discuss for hours and never get to the true root of because I don't know Kobe.

Kobe reminds me of a Shakespearean character. He is so distant from me I have to discover his motivation through the things he says and does, just like when I am reading a play.

Speaking of Shakespearean tragedy, let's turn back to A-Rod.

His problem isn't his obsession with winning. In fact, it could be argued that it's his lack of obsession that is his major flaw.

When he is in the postseason, he doesn't take his game to the next level, as someone who gets paid more than entire teams should be expected to do.

How else do you explain Cleveland's decision to pitch to A-Rod with a runner on second (the tying run) in a must-win playoff game at Yankee stadium?

Did A-Rod make them pay for it like any other elite athlete would have? No, he simply lined out or some other garbage.

You A-Rod fans out there may be saying, "So what if he's not clutch, he doesn't have to be!"

You're wrong. For the money he gets, he should be everything Yankee fans want him to be, and a lot more.

A-Rod will never be liked, and like Kobe, he seems to spend too much energy trying to be.

At the All-Star Game last year, he was sitting next to David Ortiz trying to slap him five and laughing too loudly, while Ortiz just kept throwing glances to Manny as if he was thinking, "How much longer do I have to listen to this loser talk to me?"

Then he pulls that stunt of opting out during Game Four of the World Series. No matter how many times A-Rod cries about having nothing to do with it, there's no way he didn't approve of the decision.

It was only after the uproar grew, that A-Rod thought, "Wow, I really screwed the pooch here, I need some damage control if I'm going to get my payday."

I wouldn't be surprised to know that A-Rod and Boras planned the whole thing about A-Rod negotiating himself with the Yankees as a desperate PR move.

Why doesn't he just come out and say it?

"I want to get paid the most money of anyone, even though my game disappears along with the leaves every October."

Because guess what A-Rod (and you too Kobe)? You can't have it both ways. You can be liked or you can be the dickhead who wants to win the most and make the most money.

But in this day of 24-hour media cycles, you'll never get away with having it both ways, especially in the media hotbeds of L.A. and New York. You're too scrutinized to get away with that crap.

My advice to them? Pick a side. It seems as if they both have, whether it's money (A-Rod) or winning at all costs (Kobe).

Stop trying to be something you're not. Don't worry about the media taking shots at you; just be the money, win-grubbing assholes that we all know you both are.


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