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Celebrity offenders always  willing to play us for fools

Frederick Niedner

Frederick Niedner

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Updated: September 11, 2013 6:08AM



Once upon a time, in the good old days, we put the sinners, villains and malefactors among us in stocks. There they stayed while their neighbors heaped shame on them with taunts and ridicule, and perhaps some well-aimed spit. Since no one kept statistics on recidivism back then, we don’t know if such treatment prevented more widespread malfeasance, although the shadow of the gallows that stood near the stocks likely turned a few consciences toward the straight and narrow.

Today, if you’re caught often enough burning the wrong kind of leaves and inhaling the smoke, or police find cocaine under the seat of your car, we lock you up, throw away the key, and forget about you. We’ll never witness whatever insults and spittle land on you in prison.

If, however, you are a rich and famous person who lies, cheats and otherwise makes a mockery of things we claim to hold sacred, we have other punishments by which we seek to purge away your character flaws.

Politicians found to have roving eyes, loose zippers or a compulsion to text pictures of their privates to potential coupling partners, we exile for a minimum of two years. Then we bring them back to try again. More often than not, their new exploits prove even more entertaining than those for which we banished them. Without their shameless cavorting, late-night talk shows and much of the Internet would have little or no material with which to keep us amused.

Occasionally, just for fun, we re-elect repeat offenders, thus providing ourselves maximum opportunity for several more years of righteous, indignant clucking and chuckling.

When we discover that professional athletes, our culture’s demi-gods, have bought their divine powers in bottles and injected them with needles, all the while touting the sanctity of the game and shamelessly denying any breakage of trust, we punish them by making them actors in the theater of the absurd.

Consider Alex Rodriguez, the mighty A-Rod, once deemed the greatest ball player of his or maybe any generation. Caught in the same net as a dozen others who pleaded guilty, more or less, and agreed to serve the baseball equivalent of time in the slammer, Rodriguez, a repeat offender, has appealed his sentence, as is his right thanks to the union contract that protects him from overzealous prosecutors. So now Rodriguez gets to play ball, so to speak, with his Yankee teammates for the rest of this season.

The drama began this week in Chicago, where Sox fans who gathered to watch their lately woebegone heroes sweep the proud New Yorkers, booed mercilessly every time Rodriguez stepped to the plate, fielded a batted ball, or in any other way drew notice. The Yankees have now gone home to play the Tigers. Will the New York faithful treat the fallen god more kindly? Perhaps, but the melodrama of jeers and booing, if not a cascade of rubber chickens, will continue in every ballpark where the Yankees appear as visitors.

Given the terms of his salary, and the fact that he returned only this week from the disabled list, A-Rod stands to earn over half a million dollars for every remaining game, or $135,000 for each at bat, as he stands out there in the pelting rain of bitter reviling.

What a strange species we are. We can’t find adequate ways to pay teachers, nurses, police officers and many others on whom we depend, but we get our jollies throwing all the money we can find at creepy, hollow people who play us for fools. Sadly, we most often get what we deserve.



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