Guilty until proven innocent


It is hard to objectively watch sports. There is so much emotion involved, both positive and negative, that drives fans to have slanted views.

Alex Rodriguez
Rodriguez will make his final appearance in a Yankee uniform Friday night. (Wikimedia Commons)

In the case of Alex Rodriguez, there are few people who do not have an opinion. There is a lot of love and hate surrounding him. I can’t say that I know many people who fall somewhere in between.

I will readily admit that I lean more to the side that hates him than loves him. I have my reasons, but that’s not actually what I am interested in talking about here.

A-Rod is one of the most polarizing players ever, and maybe the most in the last 25 years, for baseball. He has hit 696 home runs, won a World Series and been named AL MVP twice. He also has been caught using steroids multiple times, sued MLB and the MLBPA and lied about his use of PEDs. He is a flawed figure no doubt, but one that could really play baseball.

Tonight, this maligned, aging player will likely play in his last game as a professional. Certainly as a Yankee, but I don’t foresee too many teams being interested in him down the road. There has been a lot of talk about Rodriguez’s history and the reasons for the hate. Most of them center around his lack of cooperation when he was accused of using PEDs. He lied, he pointed the blame elsewhere, he threw his doctors and coaches under the bus. It certainly wasn’t a good look.

Rodriguez, with some help from Ryan Braun, has highlighted the development of believing athletes are guilty until proven innocent. And those are just the baseball guys. The cases of Ray Rice, Oscar Pistorious and Jerry Sandusky have contributed to this perpetuating doubt when a player is accused of breaking the rules or the law.

It has become the reality of sports. Tom Brady was immediately assumed guilty in his Deflategate scandal. Whether he was guilty or not, Brady was always in the position of needing to prove his innocence. From the second the question is raised, we all as sports fans jump to the conclusion that the player is guilty and we hold onto our doubt until they are completely cleared. And sometimes we even hold onto it after that.

We no longer will grant athletes the benefit of the doubt. We expect the athlete to complete explain himself or herself right away, otherwise face the wrath of our conviction.

And you cannot really blame the fans for this skepticism after what has happened with Rodriguez. He admitted to using PEDs in 2001 while with the Texas Rangers back in 2009. Then when the Biogenesis scandal was uncovered in 2013, Rodriguez tried to act like he had been duped. In the end, it turned out that Rodriguez was trying to cover everything up, leaving fans furious and with a feeling that they had been played.

Rodriguez tried so hard to beat the system and avoid the suspension associated with the actions he committed and that more than anything else has left sports fans jaded. It is one thing to break the rules or the law if you own up to it. It is another to break the rules or the law and then deny it ever happened and avoid the consequences. For all sports fans, that leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.

Now, it probably isn’t fair to blame this all on A-Rod, but the reality is that he is the pinnacle point of this idea. Fans can no longer give players the benefit of the doubt, because of how far from the truth the athlete can be.

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