Someone once asked Fred Zinnemann, the director, what a certain famous movie star was like. "What makes you think," Zinnemann replied, "that she's like anything?"
In the same way, the more we learned about Alex Rodriguez, the more I've always asked myself: is he like anything? Ever? Certainly there's never been anyone quite like him in sports -- the best at his game, the world at his feet ... but yet, also incorporated within such majesty: insecurity ... jealousy ... and untrustworthiness. He could be so gauche he could make you cringe. Remember the magazine photograph of A-Rod kissing himself in the mirror? Good grief, even Narcissus was content merely to stare at his own reflection.
The worst of him was on display last springtime, which he himself refers to now as his "rock bottom." A book grossly detailing his flaws and deceit was published -- most prominently with withering accusations of his employment of performance-enhancing drug injections. Somehow, that Rodriquez felt it necessary to juice up when he was already the lord of the realm, at the peak of his game, was all the more incriminating. The other stars who had turned to drugs had only done so when their great gifts began to fail them, like aging actresses fleeing to plastic surgery. It was lamentable, but human. But A-Rod? There was never enough. He had to top off the tank even when it was full.
His public mea culpa was strained and disingenuous, only adding to his unpopularity. But fortune comes in odd disguise. Shortly thereafter, Rodriquez found he needed hip surgery, and he was yanked off the stage. When he returned, it appeared that his ego had been operated on as well. As he struggled to regain his physical gifts, the man who always had to be the cynosure appeared not only vulnerable but satisfied to accept his part in an ensemble, even to defer to the young and articulate new Yankee star, Mark Teixeira.
A-Rod stopped bloviating, especially about subjects that were beyond everything but his vanity. In the past, he would have grandly exploited his romance with a tabloid actress. Now, his canoodling with Kate Hudson was as veiled as these things can be in a paparazzi world. After awhile, nobody even cared. And perhaps more telling: it didn't seem that Rodriquez minded that nobody cared.
And then, of course, October -- A-Rod's month that had lived in infamy. Had any great player's name in any sport ever so pitilessly been paired with the word "choke" in a succession of offseasons? But in his third at bat in this October's first postseason game, he drove in a run and drove away the boos, and he was off on a tear all the way to the World Series. By the end, Sunday night, when New York finished off the Angels, it was A-Rod that the Yankees surrounded. It was hard to believe he was the same person who started the season. He was a team-mate.
Why, no one even talks about his drug-scarred record anymore. And now, should A-Rod keep it up and lead the Yankees to the championship: What makes you think he's like anything?