Sunday, one of my heroes in the sport of baseball announced he would be retiring from the game on August 12th. Here are a few of my thoughts on the controversial and storied career of Alex Rodriguez.
It was the summer of 2007 and I awoke to a big surprise. My father had gotten my brother and I up that morning around 4:00 am and into the car for my birthday. I had no idea what was going on and slept for the morning as we drove. A few hours later I groggily began to look around, and in a few moments came to the exciting realization that we were entering Cooperstown, NY… The home of the Baseball Hall of Fame! I was standing on hallowed ground! As we arrived, we were greeted with more exciting news! Barry Bonds had days before broken the career HR record, and we would be the first of the public to get to see the display commemorating the event. As soon as the doors open we rushed upstairs and took in the Bonds display in all its glory. My dad turned to me and asked if I wanted to be the first to take my picture with it. What an honor!!! As I considered, I turned and saw the list of others on that great list. Several names down was listed the name of one of my heroes: Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod was the greatest! Second only to The Captain, Derek Jeter, in my mind. In that moment, I decided I didn’t want my picture with the Bonds display. I would confidently wait until the day A-Rod broke the record, and then I would come to be the first to get a picture with that display.
I didn’t know the many troubles that would come to be associated with A-Rod’s name. PEDs, Steroids, Suspensions. As the evidence piled up, I grew disdainful. My hero, the one who I thought so greatly of, was a cheat. I couldn’t stand the idea that I once looked up to and admired a man who had done something so shameful.
However, over the past several years, I’ve noticed a change in my childhood hero. He carries himself with more dignity, has admitted and apologized for his past mistakes, and has been the humble leader on a Yankees team after the retirement of other all-time greats like Posada, Rivera, and Jeter. In these years, as I’ve watched A-Rod play ball I’ve grown to look up to him once again. Not because he’s flawless, but because of how he responded to his flaws. I once admired Alex because of an idea of perfection I thought he lived up to in baseball. Now, he’s earned my respect as he humbly has grown from his failures as a man.
It goes without saying that all of us make mistakes. But it seems sometimes we forget that those in the limelight have their share of dark secrets. Everyone has made their mistakes, and I don’t say that to justify them. I say it to redefine my expectations of those I look up to. If I’m expecting those I admire to be perfect, I set us both up for disappointment. If you don’t know of someone’s failures, you simply don’t know them well enough. As I determine the men and women that I look up to, I no longer try to find someone who claims to have a flawless and pristine image. The closer you get to the image, the more marks and stains you see. Because everyone has them. I know that I have made mistakes and have shortcomings that I’m not proud of. I’m a sinner. And so are my heroes. They shouldn’t have to live up to my ideal standards, because I myself can’t do that. That’s why we all need Christ.Instead, I search for those who respond humbly and with character to their mistakes. Someone who admits, takes responsibility for, and grows from their wrongs.
This kind of person is rare. In sports. In Hollywood. Music. Politics. Life.
As you consider the people you look up to, don’t try to cover up their flaws on their behalf. If they truly are the individual of character you believed them to be, they’ll acknowledge their wrongs and shortcomings, and aim to grow.
That’s why, come Friday, I’ll take my hat off to A-Rod as he trots around the diamond one last time. He made plenty of mistakes, but the humility he showed as he grew to admit them has once more made him a hero to me.
Check out A-Rod’s retirement announcement here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56Vof7Qao-g