J.R. Moehringer has a huge feature about Alex Rodriguez on ESPN.com today. It's a well-reported, in-depth look at everything Rodriguez has been up to since being banned from baseball for 162 games for using PEDs. There's a lot going on in the story, and you should really read the whole thing, but perhaps most startling are the various ways in which Rodriguez goes about atoning for his sins.
There was the night he made a list of people he felt the need to apologize to, and then called them all, one by one:
Then he makes a list. He loves lists, makes them all the time, usually in one of his special yellow notebooks, and on this list he writes the names of people he must phone right away. People to whom he owes an apology. People to whom he owes an explanation. Friends, owners, fellow players with whom he should shoot straight. He goes down the list, one by one, dialing his BlackBerry with an unsteady hand. He tells each person on his list that he's deeply sorry for all the drama he's caused, that he's determined to regain their trust and he hopes they'll give him that chance. Of course, he doesn't tell them the whole story, because he's never told the whole story to anyone. Not a single person, living or dead, knows the whole story, though two people know something close. Still, he tells the list people more than he's accustomed to telling, more than he's willing to tell, which makes each call a crucible. He's relieved when the list voices thank him for the call and wish him good luck in the trying days ahead. Mercy, grace, compassion — it's more than he hoped for, more than he deserves. It means he's on the right path.
There was his therapist, banning Rodriguez to the woods in order to contemplate his misdeeds in solitude:
Soul-crushing, kneecapping, the sessions are spa days compared to what comes after. Dr. David banishes Rodriguez to the nearby woods, orders him to go on a walkabout of shame, to meditate on what they've discussed, ponder what he's done. For a man who doesn't like being alone, this solitary excursion into the wilderness with nothing but his regrets for company is the most exquisite anguish.
Rodriguez complains to Dr. David, and Dr. David doesn't care. Do it, he says, and Rodriguez obeys.
Rodriguez started carrying around a list of five things he can do to become a better person:
One day, sitting with Dr. David, he makes a list. Five ways to become a better person. He roughs it out on a piece of scratch paper, then types it up back home in Miami, then prints it out, then cuts it into a perfect square, then laminates it, then slides it into his black billfold, and every morning before shaving he takes it out and spends a few minutes really thinking about what it says. It's a searingly personal list, but he doesn't have to worry about it falling into the wrong hands, because it's written in a kind of wind-talker code that no one could break, a blend of Dr. David patois and Rodriguezese. Basically, the five items are about respecting others, about being kinder and more compassionate to others, and demanding others do the same. But there's nothing in there about making an explicit public avowal. Either it's not a priority for him or it's not in the realm of possibility.
On the one hand, all of these things appear to have helped Rodriguez reach a better place. On the other, this self-punishment feels a little outsized. It's reminiscent of the time Josh Gordon had to go to drug rehab for smoking weed and befriend a horse.
Moehringer's story is a profile of a man who's been torturing himself over his mistakes, and there are many scenes like the ones above, which are laid on so thick that it's hard to remember just how truly minor Rodriguez's transgressions are; he didn't hurt another human being or defraud anyone. He's just one of the many pro athletes to haven taken PEDs and then lied about doing so, and yet he's out here getting banished to the woods by his therapist as if he's a broken man who needs to be reborn. A-Rod is a weird dude and a cheater, but he's far from evil.