The question many people seem to have for Alex Rodriguez, now banned from baseball for 211 games for using performance-enhancing drugs, is this: You’re obviously a great baseball player. Why risk your multimillion-dollar annual contract and your legacy in sports in order to perform even better?
There is a likely psychological answer to that question that pertains to Rodriguez, and there is a definite psychological answer to that question that pertains to our culture -- and not just sports.
As for Rodriguez, the answer probably resides in deep feelings of unworthiness. In psychiatry, many behavioral manifestations are fueled by their opposites. People who feel spiritually impoverished risk their great fortunes to build bigger ones, as though their bank accounts can erase unloving parents. People who were confined to unloving households move again and again, as though every place they linger represents the same peril as their homes of origin (which it need not).
Alex Rodriguez would not pump his muscles up and pump up his public persona were he not, deep down, deflated emotionally. He uses performance-enhancing drugs because he is running from truths that require more and more fame and adoration to avoid. He doesn’t just want to be No. 1; he unconsciously thinks he needs to be No. 1 to avoid coming face-to-face with his greatest fear: that he is a zero.
Freud must be grinning that we even wonder why Rodriguez is Rodriguez. You don’t end up carrying a big stick, injecting yourself with long needles, trying to make your muscles big so you can smack things around, if you don’t feel weak.
Now, on to our sick, sorry excuse for culture in America: Millions upon millions are addicted to entertainment and lying and any manner of thing that distracts us from the obligation to act with autonomy and in accord with our principles.
The majority of Americans watch reality TV that has no connection to reality. We Tweet as though we have followers when we do not. We have hundreds or thousands of false friends on Facebook. We are legalizing marijuana to get as many people high as possible. We take guns away from law-abiding citizens because the idea of having to arm oneself, instead of looking to the mother state to defend us, is abhorrent to the majority of the voting public, which long ago became addicted to fakery and foolishness. We keep adults at home on mommy and daddy’s insurance until they are 25-year-old infants. We hand out food stamps like mother’s milk to anyone willing to suckle.
And we don’t love sports, anymore, because it showcases extremes of human talent and grit. We love sports now because they are hyperbolic, blow-up circuses that showcase what people can do when they shed reality and cede their physiologies to human growth hormone, blood doping and all the rest. And when we tune in, we are just watching a metaphor for ourselves.
Asking what is wrong with Alex Rodriguez is largely beside the point. Who cares about him? The game is being played from the stands now, where few of us really care to stand for the truth any more than he does, and most folks are busy texting, anyhow, while Tweeting that they are attending a real game, which they are not.
In YOUR America, but for a 9th-inning surge of reality, the game has been played, and Alex Rodriguez is its hero.
Keith Ablow, MD is a psychiatrist, and was host of the nationally-syndicated "Dr. Keith Ablow Show." He is a former member of the Fox News Medical A Team.