The suspension of a dozen major league ballplayers for performance enhancing drug use -- cheating -- was big news yesterday. Biggest news was the suspension mess around media darling Alex Rodriguez, a New York Yankee pain in the neck who should have been banned for life but was just banned for, in essence, two seasons.
So stupidly dominant was this story that other broadcasts of major league games cut away, often at critical moments, to his four rusty, uninteresting, turns at the plate in Chicago. Four ESPN talking heads -- two of them former Major League players, one reporter and one 'host' -- attempted to put the situation into perspective, but failed. Their words were sometimes thoughtful but their demeanor betrayed impatience and boredom with a subject so overblown, so inflated, yet so 'newsworthy' that it forced them to rehash what they had rehashed from what they had rehashed a week ago.
Lost in the thick fog of the no longer compelling A-Rod scandal were a number of excellent games instrumental to the progress of a wonderful baseball season. The Dodgers, for one, moved into second place all-time for consecutive road wins with a nail-biter pitcher's-duel against the St. Louis Cardinals. Other interesting moments in the life of the season were revealed in other baseball cities, including our own August miracle.
A daughter was born to one of my former students -- a college pitcher himself -- during the Rodriguez soap opera. If he hadn't been at bedside through 16 hours of labor, he might have, himself been ranting about Mr. Rodriguez. Instead, he sent me a photograph this morning of him holding his tiny new daughter in his big hands, the way you hold a baseball if you are a pitcher -- soft and gentle. Funny thing: No mention of Rodriguez in his e-mail message.
Yes, the drama of the baseball cheats, and the passion play of the biggest cheat of all, may have held baseball fans in its thrall -- though I doubt it -- but many more important events happened yesterday.
The finest words on this subject came from former Major League player Doug Glanville in today's New York Times. I'll leave you with these because they are damn near perfect:
There used to be a reason we were counting. It helped build a story. Numbers allowed us to compare players within a generation or an era, and across leagues, countries and decades. They tallied how you ranked in any category and subcategory of your choosing. Or, better yet, in ways that may have mattered just to you in that quiet moment playing with your son in the backyard.
You accumulated because each chip was a singular flake of gold from the game. I had 1,100 hits in my career, but none were as magical as number 1, and none as emotional as numbers 999, 1,000 and 1,001, which all came the day my father died.
Numbers can have meaning because of what we bring to them. Their value, and meaning, may change over time. But when all that matters is the numbers as numbers, you have zeros.