Selena Roberts’ upcoming unauthorized biography on Alex Rodriguez is getting plenty of pre-release buzz. According to several published reports, the book, entitled A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez, will contain salacious details on A-Rod’s sexuality, drug use and personal relationships. Tina Andreadis, a spokesperson for HarperCollins, the book’s publisher, has promised “a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot of new information” and that what was reported in Roberts’ Sports Illustrated was “just the tip of the iceberg” and that the book will “talk about his private life, every facet of Alex Rodriguez’s life … Personal, private, this is going to be a very exhaustive biography.”
Will the book sell? Obviously, it will and it will big, based on the tremendous success of Joe Torre’s recent book, which was downright tame compared to what the speculation on Roberts’ book will contain. As Don Henley once sang, “people love it when you lose, they love Dirty Laundry..”
In fact, its publisher, HarperCollins, has moved up the release date by over a month, from May 19 to April 14 and has increased the number of printed copies from 150,000 to 200,000 due to anticipated demand.
Is all of this fair, though? Of course, A-Rod makes himself a target, and an easy target at that. The guy comes across in interviews and even while playing as desperate for attention and approval. He was the one who wanted to escape the baseball backwater that is Arlington, Texas, of course. He is the one has irritated his teammates and competitors countless times by odd and silly displays both on the field and off. He is the one who squired a stripper around Toronto, dated(?) Madonna, sunbathed topless in Central Park and embarrassed the Yankees and baseball (though presumably not himself) by attempting to upstage a World Series game to announce that he was opting out of his contract. He is also the one who went on 60 Minutes and lied to the nation (and worse yet, Katie Couric) about his steroid use. So, as a public figure, A-Rod has brought so much of this on himself and will likely garner very little sympathy if the book is as salacious and intrusive as the publishers promise.
So while I don’t feel bad for A-Rod, exactly, what kind of precedent is this setting if it goes far beyond steroids and delves deeply into personal issues that A-Rod faces off the field? Why is A-Rod’s sexuality important, for example, to anybody but his family and close friends? The raising of that topic opens a lot of speculation.
We already know that A-Rod ran around with a stripper and dated Madonna. Anybody with any kind of common sense and street smarts would assume that his womanizing likely doesn’t end there. He is recently divorced, after all, and as a famous baseball player, it would be strange if A-Rod DIDN’T play the field, I would think. So what exactly about his sexuality will people find all that interesting? I would imagine that it’s one of two things: A-Rod could be gay or bisexual, and/or that he’s promiscuous. If this book is that A-Rod is a big womanizer, then, really, that could hardly be considered news. If he is in some sort of alternative lifestyle, well, that certainly COULD be news, but why should Selena Roberts, or anybody else, out him? Against the law, no, but ethical? I think not. None of these things would be crimes, so why exactly, should any reporter feel obliged to report on this, except in the interests of book sales and, of course, money.
I realize that there are some gray areas here. I believe steroid use certainly is newsworthy. And, as I’ve written about before, if A-Rod has lied yet again, he deserves the avalance of criticism and scrutiny that he will get. Steroids are clearly a major problem for baseball and effects the product on the field in ways in which the ticket buying public will sadly never be able to dimension with any level of certainty. I’d even say that A-Rod’s relationships with teammates is fair game, as it obviously can effect the Yankees and their ability to play and succeed together. But reporting on A-Rod’s sexuality, his personal relationships, and other disclosures that would serve no purpose other than to embarrass him (if that’s possible), and potentially his family, are, in my view, gratuitous and serve no apparent productive purpose.
Yes, A-Rod is a public figure and a crossover star. People such as that need to know that they will lose a reasonable amount of their privacy. A-Rod has seemed to do a terrible job of protecting his privacy, and by extension his image, and maybe has all sorts of inner needs and issues that prevent him from doing so. But he is, at the end of the day, a third baseman. A baseball player. He’s not running for President, he’s not the CEO of a major corporation. He plays a game for a living. Nothing he does off the field is actually that important, save for steroids, and I question the need to report on his sexual preferences, personal habits and less than flattering aspects of his personality.
Now, I haven’t read the book, and as I advised on the Joe Torre book, it’s always best to actually read the book before reacting. So I am not here to trash Selena Roberts’ efforts, but at least conceptually, the early buzz on her book is discomforting, to say the least. She is a reporter for Sports Illustrated, not the National Enquirer, after all, and we would all have a reasonable expectation of restraint and quality from her. And while her sources and evidence will likely prove unimpeachable, her motives will be, and should be, fairly questioned.