Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A-Rod and Real

David Brooks writes:
For a while, when I first started writing for the New York Times, I worried a lot about whether I was doing it right. After all, as official representative of Rightness on the op-ed page of the most important newspaper in the world, I was in the shoes of Bill Safire, a dazzling self-advertiser who had [jump]
"Wanting to see her big brother during his baseball game", Stephanie Collins, 2011. Smithonian. 

remade himself from a Republican marketing hack into a preeminent authority on the niceties of English style simply by asserting it. Did I have the stuff for a journey like that?
And then I began to realize that it didn't really matter. Other people had already decided who I was, the wry, clubbable conservative who was interested in something other than tax policy and abortion; the well-behaved house guest from the other side of the tracks who willingly joins in the ladies' activities—the croquet, the costumed tableaux-vivants—without seeming either flirty or judgmental. All I needed to do was just that: to amuse myself, with a self-deprecating smile, repeat one or two of the official party talking points often enough to keep the position clear, and if I ever went too far—in enthusiasm over a clash-of-civilizations war, say—to forget that it had ever happened.
I was reminded of those early struggles this week by the news that Alex Rodriguez had been suspended from the Yankees, arguably the New York Times of the sports world, over his use of performance-enhancing drugs. The parallels between A-Rod and me are inescapable: a talent recognized too early (the scouts attending Rodriguez's every high school game, old Mr. Buckley giving me a shout-out in his address at my Chicago graduation) , a problem meshing with colleagues (his teammates hate him, Krugman thinks I'm an idiot), even adventures with high-concept women (he dated Madonna, I have Gail Collins for an Internet girlfriend).
Rodriguez used superagent Scott Boras to negotiate enormous salaries for him while he himself could seem disengaged from the money angle, only interested in glory. I dredged Selena Roberts's biography to fill four paragraphs looking as if I knew everything about him before suddenly citing her on an apparently random detail so as to disguise the fact that it was the only book I looked at in the preparation of the column, in a little stylistic trick I have that you may or may not have noticed.
So what makes the difference? How is it that he's getting booed in Chicago while I'm about to go off and type another book? How did he end up on drugs where I was able to find serenity?
I'd say it has to do with the way self-preoccupied people think their abilities come from inside themselves, rather than understanding that they are completely determined by outside forces, the interplay of genes and environment, and therefore need to be directed outwards, toward satisfying others, not inwards, in the fantasy of achieving a personal best. Instead of competing against his personal demons, A-Rod could have been competing against some carefully chosen mediocrity. It's a shame. He should have been more like me, other-directed and not self-involved at all.
And here's the windup... Via.

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