Welcome to the Weekend Read. Below you'll find our favorite stories of the week, a peek inside the life of Alex Rodriguez and an all-time photo of Derek Jeter (and A-Rod!).
• Five years ago, Alex Rodriguez thought he was ruined. So did everyone else. So, what happened? (By Ben Reiter)
• As his nation's first NBA player, Yao Ming made basketball relevant in China. Now he needs to make Chinese basketball relevant across the world. (By Alex Prewitt)
• After being trapped in a flooded cave for 17 days and dramatically rescued, what happened to the Thai youth soccer team? (By Max Marshall)
• "Some imports survive. Others get spit out." Go behind the scenes of life in the Chinese Basketball Association. (By Alex Prewitt)
• Kyle Lowry's improbable journey from Mr. Stubborn to Mr. Raptor. (By Chris Mannix)
• What’s Kevin Youkilis up to in his post-baseball life? Running a brewery, of course. (By Mark Bechtel)
Q&A: How to Live the Life of A-Rod for a Week
After writing the Alex Rodriguez cover story for SI's "Where Are They Now?" issue, Ben Reiter is here to deliver the scoop on what it's like to operate in A-Rod's shadow for a week.
Sports Illustrated: What was it like shadowing A-Rod for seven days? What’s your overall impression of how he lives his life?
Ben Reiter: It’s pretty exhausting. If I somehow pull in $450 million by the time I’m 40, I’ll be in Hawaii or something, living that Don Nelson life. Not him. The 80 to 100 hour workweeks I mention in the story are no exaggeration. His schedule is absolutely packed. I saw him do Jimmy Fallon’s show, participate in the FOX up-fronts, interview Kevin Bacon for his Barstool podcast, address a business conference, mentor Ryan Lochte for his CNBC show, meet with British journalists to promote the Red Sox-Yankees series in London, participate in a ridiculous number of meetings and calls, hang out on the set of his fiancée J.Lo’s new movie Hustlers, broadcast Sunday Night Baseball, and a number of other things that I couldn’t even fit into the story. And he puts in serious prep work for each one of those engagements, with the team that keeps him on track at all times: his COO Jeff Lee, his chief of staff Anita Smith, and his executive assistant Ashleigh Honig. He also appears genuinely devoted to his daughters and to J.Lo. He never stops. Which is a big factor in his turnaround.
SI: Would A-Rod consider running for office at any point?
BR: I don’t think so. But I think I made him ponder it, so if it happens, blame me. I will say that I’ve never seen strangers react to anyone the way they did when he walked up Fifth Avenue after he was on Fallon–it was utter pandemonium, entirely adoring–and that’s what gave me the idea to ask about the possibility.
SI: Does A-Rod fully grasp how far his public image fell? Does he understand how much it’s been revived?
BR: He certainly went into specifics about his emotional state after the fall–what a mess he was when he forced himself to watch Yankees games, for instance–but he still can’t publicly admit exactly what he did wrong nor why he did it, even though he takes ownership of that behavior and endlessly apologizes for it. And yes, he grasps how far he’s come–and, like a lot of people, actually can’t believe how extreme his rehabilitation has been, to the point where he’s warmly greeted even in the space where he was once despised more than anyone else, something I witnessed. “The fact that I’m in the Red Sox locker room and giving everybody hugs is crazy,” he told me. “They used to hate me–with a Capital H.”
SI: What does A-Rod eat? It sounds like he's extremely conscious about his diet.
BR: The typical healthy stuff: salads, grilled fish. Almost no alcohol, except he did have a drink on his first date with J.Lo, because he was so nervous. He doesn’t just have one chef, but many chefs, in his many residences. The nine coffees he drinks a day probably aren’t healthy, but they keep him going. He does seem to consistently violate his diet for his meetings with one particular friend–they always have steak and ice cream–but that might be the only instance, probably because the friend is Warren Buffett and that’s what Buffett likes.
SI: What weird quirks does A-Rod have, if any, that you noticed in your time spent together?
BR: He constantly asks questions of everyone he meets, myself included–how do I write and report a story, what my process is like, that kind of thing. He takes copious notes. He really believes he missed out on learning a lot about both the world and himself because he became a baseball superstar at such a young age, and feels a driving need to catch up. And he pees really often. Probably because of the nine coffees.
SI: The Kylie Jenner-Met Gala saga bubbled over on Twitter this week. Was the quote in the story all A-Rod had to say about her and the Met Gala?
BR: It was, but some people–including Jenner herself–are reading it wrong. He wasn’t being at all critical of her. He was being admiring. He strongly values business acumen and success, and admires all that she’s accomplished (and accumulated) at such a young age. Some people have also taken issue with his description of some of his and J.Lo’s tablemates at the Met Gala–Idris Elba as “the black guy from The Wire” and of Henry Golding as “the Asian gentleman from Rich Asians, the lead.” He’s new to the celebrity world, and doesn’t know a lot of the people in it. He was (very) clumsily trying to describe who they were–that’s it. Clearly, his learning process is ongoing.
SI: A-Rod is involved in so many different things right now, do you think he has an end game?
BR: I had to have asked him that a dozen times. I don’t think he has a goal. As I write in the story, he’s always been a person who wants to be something more than he already is, which does something to explain both his baseball successes and transgressions. I think he’s so thrilled with how his unexpected life in Wonderland is going that he’ll continue to push it as far as it’ll go. In other words, prepare to see a lot more of him.
Vault Photo of the Week: 45 Never Looked So Good
With so much focus on A-Rod, it only makes sense we pivot to his one-time friend, one-time nemesis, Derek Jeter. The Captain turned 45 this week, so it feels apropriate to revive this gem from the SI Vault. A 22-year-old Jeter posed shirtless alongside fellow young shortstops Rodriguez (on the Mariners at the time), Edgar Renteria of the Marlins, Rey Ordoñez of the Mets and Alex Gonzalez of the Blue Jays. Like fine wine, this photo only gets better with age.
Photograph taken by SI's Walter Iooss Jr. in February 1997.
Best of the Rest
Editor's note: Below are some of our favorite stories of the week not published by SI. This week's list is curated by Jenna West.
• If you loved (or hated) Bol Bol’s spiderweb suit at the NBA draft last week, explore the evolution of the event’s fashions with The New Yorker’s Troy Patterson.
• Idris Elba won’t play the next James Bond, but he’s still one of the biggest leading men in Hollywood right now. Vanity Fair’s K. Austin Collins takes us through Elba’s rise to the top.
• The Yankees and Red Sox will play in MLB’s inaugural London Series this weekend to spread love for the game across the pond. However, The New York Times’ David Waldstein reveals there’s actually more baseball already played in Britain than you might think.
• An unsolved murder in Malibu Creek State Park last summer stirred panic in a community and generated plenty of questions and conspiracy theories. GQ’s Zach Baron explores the aftermath of the mysterious crime.
• Kelsey McKinney of Deadspin examines the lasting impact of foul ball injuries on baseball fans.
Editor's note: What kind of stories and content would you like to see in the Weekend Read? Let's chat at SIWeekendRead@gmail.com.