On a rare sick day earlier this week, I was at home, catching up on some TV while battling an uncooperative stomach. As I was channel surfing, I spotted something that really caught my eye. Now, I am a guy who watches a lot of sports – and while I don’t claim to be a fanatic, I tend to know a bit more than the average person who watches the games. So I am watching ESPN’s Mike and Mike simulcast on ESPN2 and the topic of Alex Rodriguez came up. What ensued was a surprisingly a high level discussion that hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic don’t always get into that I found highly refreshing.
The short version of it is that Alex Rodriguez is an immensely talented baseball player who now plays for the New York Yankees. This dude is a real glamor boy – having dated big names like Kate Hudson, Cameron Diaz and even Madonna. In the past, he has admitted to using performance enhancing drugs, something that has become a huge no-no in the sport. Now, he is caught up in another drug scandal and he has been banned from playing a full season. The league was trying to ban him for a year and a half, but the suspension was reduced to 1 year (in baseball that’s 162 games), inclusive of any post season games played by the Yankees. This is a huge deal in the sport, simply because it is the longest drug suspension handed out ever to this point, to one of the most recognizable face of the game over the past 20 years no less.
In an almost expected turn of events, Alex has sued the MLB Players union (one of the most powerful labor unions overall in the US) and Major League Baseball over the grounds of his suspension. (Here’s the one of latest updates: http://espn.go.com/new-york/mlb/story/_/id/10302554/alex-rodriguez-new-york-yankees-speaks-media-first-season-long-suspension). Things have gotten to the point where there is talk in the media that the Yankees should pay him off the rest of his contract – 61 million over the next few years – and just cut him loose. Now, A-Rod, as he is commonly called, has long become a pariah in the sport, a seriously polarizing figure that has put up incredible numbers – Hall of Fame numbers – but may never, ever get into the Hall of Fame.
He’s made to this point about US$352 million in earnings from baseball. So Mike and Mike on their radio show proposed this question to their listeners that got me thinking:
“Knowing that A Rod has made enough money in the bank to have his family set for life, would you trade places with him, especially since his reputation ruined and legacy shredded?”
Of course, there were mixed reactions on Twitter. Some people said take the cash; others said their reputation wasn’t for sale. It got me really thinking.
Some folks, as far as A-Rod is concerned should use his $352 million and buy a new reputation. The thought there is that this will fade after a few years, and maybe many years from now people will view this time period differently, perhaps with more compassion. Others say that there is no price for a good reputation. I heard quotes like “my father game me one thing – my name – and instructed me to take good care of it”, and “what would it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul”. Mike Greenberg posed the following thought:
“As for your kids, in your pursuit to take care of your family, how comfortable would you feel with the idea of having a reputation so tarnished to the point where they would have an uncomfortable pause to say –‘that’s my dad’“? (Paraphrased)
The truth is everyone has a price for doing business and achieving their goals. For some, taking care of their family by any means necessary, especially when their survival is constantly at stake, is more important than the risks associated with their methods to achieve their aims. It is why some desperate folks get into illegal activities; some sleep with a boss or coworker to keep a job/get promoted; some abandon their families to please a spouse. These are complicated decisions people are forced to make, often times under pressure packed situations.
It triggered a side note of an episode of a show called “Cocaine Wars” I saw later that day. In it, they follow US DEA agents working with Colombian authorities to bust drug rings in Colombia. There was a case of a man traveling with his 3-year-old daughter who got stopped in Columbia’s international airport for smuggling large quantities of cocaine in his suitcase. He shared later that his wife and other kids in his home of Spain only had money left for the next few days. He was just trying to do this deal and get enough money to fix their financial problems. Now, he is in jail for many years, his daughter who was with him goes into protective custody, and is wife and family back home face even more hardship.
I don’t envy having to face these dilemmas, and I have mad my share to this point. As for me, I was taught that once lost, your reputation cannot be repaired. Even if you rebuild it, things are never the same again. It’s almost like that feeling one gets after replacing a broken window pane with either the same glass before or a new sheet of glass – it is just not the same as before. Guess that has made me more cautious and protective of my rep and more critical in how I thinking through decisions as I handle my own affairs. Would I bend the rules and sacrifice a sliver of my rep to take care of my family? Probably, given the situation – because I know what my price is and that no one can set my price for me. The fact is knowing one’s price, and not having others set that price for you are very important. If you don’t know your price, how can you truly handle those high-risk, morally charged dilemmas?
As Kenny Rogers once said: “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run.”
Good luck, A-Rod. It will surely be fascinating to watch.