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He's a proven liar, a repeated liar, and thus, as he prepares to emerge from the longest steroid-related suspension in the history of baseball, as he readies himself physically and mentally for his 21st spring training, there's tremendous interest in his story, but there's just no point in quoting him. Take a sentence from Rodriguez, set it between two quotation marks and watch what happens; it curdles like year-old milk.The words become unstable, unusable, weirdly ironic.No father, no college -- these are his two gaping wounds, his two great sorrows.They're also a huge part of why he's here today, but no, no, he doesn't dare go into all that, doesn't want to tell these students anything about himself, let alone everything, including his darkest secrets, and yet here it comes, the invisible baton of attention, wending its way around the room, not unlike a baseball going around the horn.All human happiness or misery takes the form of action, Aristotle said, and though he was speaking of storytelling, life is a never-ending story, and what holds for plot often holds for ethics. He knows he's not talking his way back from purgation. And then he's condemned to learn it again, and again. Later, at a café in the Design District, sharing a plate of grilled fish and some calamari with a friend, Rodriguez glows. But they swear it's a thing, this education, this radical home schooling he's undertaken. How do you measure the start of an evolution, a metamorphosis, an accretion of character? His inner circle tells him he's making a terrible mistake.For instance: He drives one night from his office in Coral Gables, Florida, to a college in downtown Miami to attend a lecture by Magic Johnson and billionaire Mike Fernandez. Uplifted, emboldened by that applause, he talks about how badly he wants to get back and play, help the team, blend into the team, have it not be about him anymore, and his words are unusually cogent, his tone nakedly earnest, altruistic. Fight, fight, fight, they say -- one of them actually uses those words. He forms a new inner circle, a smaller circle, this one made up of levelheaded Midwesterners, peacemakers -- and deal makers.
Quoting Rodriguez is like dropping a Mento into a Diet Coke.
Rodriguez's defenders (and employees) are quick to say: Sheesh, the guy didn't murder anybody. A-Rod killed the radio star, and his fall from grace disrupted the whole symbology and mythopoesis of what it means to be a superhero athlete in modern America. (From a PR standpoint, he'd have been better served dating Bernie Madoff.
Some Rodriguez haters are less offended by his mortal sins than his venial ones. In fact, he'd have been better served riding a tandem bike down Broadway with Madoff on the back seat, ringing the little tinkly bell.) Other haters focus on the verbal more than the visual.
Editor's note: This story contains explicit language.
As part of the stories of the year collection, this piece is being resurfaced along with others in the coming days as ESPN Digital and Print Media closes out the year.