Pants on fire

It can’t be a real fuzzy feeling to wake up in the morning and realize that you’ve just been exposed as a bald-faced liar on national television. But that’s exactly the bowl of scalding chili that fell recently into the lap of Alex Rodriguez, aka “A-rod,” New York Yankee third baseman and extremely well-paid super tool. After Sports Illustrated broke the news that A-roid was one of 104 baseball players who tested positive for performance enhancers in 2003, ESPN’s baseball reporter emeritus Peter Gammons quickly hustled up an interview. During that session, Gammons asked A-fraud to watch and comment on a 60 Minutes segment from December of ’07. Rodriguez was being questioned by Katie Couric, who asked if he’d ever ’roided up, or had even been tempted to do so. Alex, God bless him, looked Katie dead in the eye and said, “No.” Just a solid piece of truth avoidance, delivered without flinch, hesitation or remorse.

After the playing of the clip, Gammons asked, “In your mind, that wasn’t a lie?”

A-rod: “At the time, Peter, I wasn’t even being truthful with myself. How am I gonna be truthful with Katie and CBS?”

Yes! There it is! An expertly delivered and effectively deflective obfuscation, making it momentarily possible to avoid answering a direct question. Well done, grasshopper! It’s the kind of verbal sludginess we’ve come to expect from our athletes and celebrities, the kind of side-stepping feint that makes an observer immediately respond—“Huh?” If Gammons’ question was a bull, Alex smoothly played out the role of the adroit toreador.

Public relations people, notice how A-rod makes it sound as though he was victimized in a web of lies in his mind, a web so thick and gummy that he really couldn’t be expected to tell the truth because he had literally lost track of the truth. Thus, Alex attains the position that all of your clients in hot water strive for… he’s a victim! A victim of his own goopy thinking, yes, but a victim nonetheless. And all of a sudden, what at first appeared to be a very simple black and white situation is now smudged with big dollops of gray. Perfect!

As Chaucer might have said, had he been watching this exchange, “Methynks ye olde bulshyte is getting a bit thyck in heer.” And in a perfect world, the interview after the Couric clip would have perhaps gone this way:

Gammons: “If lies were home runs, son, you just whacked a 520-footer.”

A-rod: “Yeah, I got some real good wood on that one. And I tell you what, dude, my old lady better not see all this.”