Christian Toto turns his obsession about the A-Rod circus into a teachable moment for his son.
I’m disappointed my four-year-old son isn’t passionate about baseball yet, but at least that gets me off the hook regarding the A-Rod saga. How does a father talk to his child about one of the best athletes of our age, a physical specimen who apparently decided his God-given gifts weren’t enough?
Even if my son lived and breathed baseball he still wouldn’t be able to process the nuances of Alex Rodriguez’s ties to performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). Heck, I don’t understand much of it, and I’ve become obsessed with all three rings of the A-Rod circus.
Fathers with pre-teens have it tougher, particularly if they root, root root for the Bronx Bombers. Dads can still glean some valuable lessons from the embattled Yankee’s plight, and they would be wise to pass them along to their children.
1. Winning Isn’t Everything … Really: Our culture makes winning the ultimate goal, and some athletes will do anything necessary to make it so. The wounds from Lance Armstrong’s doping confession are still raw, and it’s hard not to envision A-Rod on Oprah Winfrey’s couch to start his apology tour. Winning does matter. It gives us an objective to reach, motivation and, ultimately, a prize or two. It’s just not everything. Just look at A-Rod’s gaudy contract. Winning the honest way is really what counts, and short cuts devalue whatever prize you seek. Tell your kids about past sports heroes, men and women who endured great odds to come out on top without cheating.
2. People Lie: It must be confusing for a pre-teen to see a public figure adamantly declare his innocence, as Armstrong did, and then reveal all those stories were just that—tall tales. Kids can be trusting souls, and the sight of a major sports star spinning a web of lies can be a jarring experience. Fathers should explain the reasons an athlete might lie to the public, from keeping from running afoul of the rules to protecting his or her public persona—and endorsements. They also can explain why such lies only magnify a person’s problems.
3. Athletes Still Can Be Role Models: Charles Barkley famously said, “I am not a role model.” He’s right, of course. Just because you can smash a 400-foot home run or kick a 55 yard field goal doesn’t make you a role model. But sports can provide such models all the same. Just consider A-Rod’s masterful teammate Mariano Rivera, an athlete who embodies class, intelligence and modesty – and the nastiest cutter around. A lad could do a lot worse than tack a poster of the greatest closer in baseball history on his or her wall. Children should be judicious in picking their sports heroes, and a father can help them make the best choices. Talk to your child about how a star conducts himself or herself off the field, how they handle winning and the support they give to their teammates.
4. Monitor the Media: It’s never too early to teach children how to process media messages. Sports reporters have been covering the latest chapter in the A-Rod saga for months, serving up a wealth of content with a variety of angles. Some reporters egged on the story, knowing it was good for web site clicks even if it damaged the sport. Others pushed conjecture as fact, hoping to scoop the competition. A few put A-Rod’s story in the proper context, both to baseball and the future of team sports. Read the stories your children are checking out regarding A-Rod and talk about the messages embedded within.
5. Making Amends: At some point A-Rod will have to move on from his current imbroglio. That could mean admitting his guilt, using his legal muscle to prove his innocence or just going back onto the baseball diamond and flashing his skills anew. The next step of his life will be crucial, and fathers can use his situation to discuss ways people can bounce back from failure. Is A-Rod making his situation worse by denying his guilt? Should he be going on the offensive against MLB if he’s innocent? A child may never be accused of taking PEDs, but he or she might get in a public jam that will require a delicate exit strategy. These discussions could set the stage for your child to successfully navigate future rough spots.
Photo: AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File