Blood is thicker than steroidy water.
Many years ago during a visit with family, my great-uncle told us he’d like to make dinner for everyone. On the menu? An extremely spicy stir-fry dish. My mother pulled me aside for a brief discussion prior to the meal. At the time, I was a notoriously picky eater, and she was worried that I would embarrass her at the table in front of our relatives.
“Listen to me,” she hissed. “I don’t care what he makes; I don’t care if you don’t like it. YOU. WILL. EAT. IT. No matter what. Understand?” I understood. And at dinner, I choked the meal down politely, although my mouth was on fire. It’s a well-known if unspoken rule that you should be on your best behavior around extended family, particularly if you don’t see them often. If they give you a birthday present you’ll never use, take you to see a movie you hate, or recommend that you ingest an unidentified substance, who are you to rock the boat? They’re family!
It is thus not difficult for me to appreciate why A-Rod allowed his cousin to inject him with an unidentified substance-he was clearly being polite. To refuse the offer would have been unconscionably rude, not to mention weak, because it would have meant missing out on strength-building steroids. At the very least, Rodriguez would have risked being grounded.
Without a doubt, Alex Rodriguez found himself in a complicated situation with this particular cousin. Still, I understand why he did what he did. Some questions have no easy answers, particularly questions that start with, “Do you want to hit the ball further? Here, give me your butt.”
Really, what was he supposed to say to his cousin that fateful day and then twice a week for three years after that? “What are you injecting into my ass?” Or perhaps, “Some substances are banned by the Major League Baseball Players Association and my career could be ruined if I’m discovered using them, so maybe this is a bad idea?” How would THAT have sounded? Imagine the lack of trust-in his own flesh and blood!-that such a reaction would have implied? It would have broken his mother’s heart to know that she raised the kind of son who would look a gift syringe full of mystery liquid-gift in the mouth.
Why don’t we also insist that Alex tells his Grandma Ethel that he actually hates her Noodle Kugel? How about we make him tell his Aunt Janet that he never wears the snowflake sweater she knitted him for Christmas? How about that? When it comes to standing up to family, where do we draw the line? Alex didn’t know-but can we really blame him?
In a way, A-Rod’s choice was admirable-he chose to follow his family over following the regulations which governed the sport that rewarded him with an extremely successful career. A-Rod knew which side he wanted to be on. After all, you don’t spend Christmas with the Major League Baseball Players Association. And do you think they give a damn about your vacation slides? In a world where it sometimes seems like people will do anything to get ahead, thank you, Alex Rodriguez, for reminding us that family should come first.