Satisfying scorn: we love to be outraged by outrageous A-Rod, Rodman

Wednesday January 15th, 2014

In his latest publicity stunt, Dennis Rodman took a group of former NBA players to North Korea.

Is scorn a liquid or a solid? One never knows whether to pour it or to heap it on public figures. If only there were a gel-cap that the scandalized could swallow daily with a glass of water -- Scorn®, Now In Eight-Hour Extended Release Caplets -- it would spare the rest of us the time and effort we dutifully devote to vilifying celebrities. I would like to forget about Alex Rodriguez, but feel an obligation for the next several decades to heap -- or is it pour? -- scorn on him.

It's true that attention-craving men like Rodriguez and Dennis Rodman invite rebuke by suing Major League Baseball and cozying up to dictators, respectively. And these provocations by A-Rod and D-Rod cannot reasonably be ignored.

But while clamoring for a confession from suspected drug cheats and the like, we should reciprocate with a confession of our own: We do love being outraged by wayward athletes and their enablers, among them Misters Armstrong, A-Rod, Bonds, Bosch, Braun, Clemens and Conte. And that's just the first three letters on an alphabetized list of alleged or admitted PED-takers and PED-peddlers, one of the many niche markets we moralizers get off on. And don't say that the previous sentence ended with two prepositions: I'm hear to dish out criticism, not take it.

And dish it I do. The mug shot at the top of this page authenticates my status as a know-it-all of the first rank. In that capacity, I serve up umbrage like a lunch lady in a hairnet, great wet dollops of indignation scooped up and plopped down daily on every passing tray, whether you asked for some or not. I can be sanctimonious in decrying sanctimony. I will moralize about the scourge of moralizing.

Which isn't to suggest that my righteous indignation is in any way manufactured, hastily slapped together in a sweatshop selling disingenuous outrage.

On the contrary: How many mornings have I stirred from a pleasant dream only to come to the slow recollection that Alex Rodriguez allegedly popped illicit gummies? By the time I've sat down to a bowl of Scorn Flakes, the day is ruined. How can anyone concentrate on his or her job knowing that baseball's reputation has been besmirched in such a way?

Fortunately, protecting the integrity of various sports is my job. Like most of you, I lead a complicated modern life, filled with carpools and burnt toast. But I try to make time in each busy morning to meditate on the misbehavior of celebrities. It gives me a sense of enormous well being, to quote Blur, and I'm ready to start my day.

From my elevated position on a high horse on the high road that occupies the moral high ground, it is easy to look down on others. (Indeed, it is the only option from this vantage point.) If I happen upon another horse that has expired from its exertions, it is incumbent upon me to beat that dead horse.

After all: A scandal is a piñata to be struck with a stick until every last piece of candy has fallen from it. And the truth is, the candy never stops falling. We may publicly wish that guys like A-Rod would "just go away." But those public wishes -- made in print, radio, television and what is always called "the court of public opinion," where every man is a righteous judge: Have Gavel, Will Travel -- ensure that these stories never really go away. They are there, in the national medicine chest, to provide a quick pick-me-up, like one of A-Rod's mysterious gummies. And there is no expiration date on the bottle.

Because we don't really want these stories to go away. That is the miraculous nature of performance-enhancing drugs. Somebody else takes them, and we feel better.

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