To the Athletes and Coaches and Sports Executives,
I forgive you. All of you. I forgive you for using performance-enhancing drugs and lying about it. I forgive you for gambling on baseball. I forgive you for the stupid things you said, the stupid things you wrote on Twitter and Facebook, the stupid photo you posted on Instagram. I forgive you for cheating to win the Tour de France, to break a record, to make your pitches sink a little more. I forgive you for bending the rules when recruiting, forgive you for deflating footballs, forgive you for smoking pot, forgive you for walking across the mound after a foul ball. I forgive you for bunting with a no-hitter going, for misreading the situation, for your controversial or hurtful political beliefs, for letting down your teammates, for snapping in a tense moment, for missteps you made in your personal life. You are absolved. You are forgiven.
Just one thing: Stop apologizing to me already.
I also forgive you for your weak apologies, the ones where you carefully used phrases like “regret the pain caused” and “sorry for creating a distraction” and “apologize to those who may have been offended.” I forgive you for apologies that so obviously leave out half the story, apologies given angrily, apologies you clearly do not mean but say anyway because that’s what public polling suggested. I forgive you for all of it. You and I … we’re good. Just stop saying you’re sorry.
When did all this start anyway? When did you start coveting my forgiveness, all the fans’ forgiveness? Let’s blame Wade Boggs. In 1989, he appeared on ABC’s 20/20 to explain his four-year affair with Margo Adams. I cared that Wade Boggs hit .364 from 1985-88. I didn’t care that he cheated on his wife – not my business. I cared that the Red Sox wanted to trade Boggs because that meant they might trade him to my hometown Cleveland Indians. I didn’t care that Boggs felt “between a rock and a hard place” when it came to Margo Adams. Still he had to tell me all about it.
“She had so many pictures of me that I felt if I make her mad, she’s going to do something,” Boggs told interviewer Barbara Walters, and the rest of us.
It was unclear what we fans were supposed to do with this information. Were we supposed to call up Boggs’ wife, Debbie, and say, “Hey, stick with Wade, he’s a good guy who just made a mistake”? Were we supposed to pat Boggs on the back the next time we saw him, give him an, “I’ve got your back, bro”? Wade Boggs wasn’t my friend, my cousin or my neighbor. He’s a guy I watched play baseball because he was really good at it. His explanation and apology to all of us felt weird and pointless and even a little bit creepy. And it was only just beginning.
Tonya Harding sort of apologized for hiring goons to take out Nancy Kerrigan. Vince Coleman kind of apologized for throwing an M-80 firecracker at a group of fans. John Calipari pseudo apologized for calling a reporter a “Mexican idiot.” Latrell Sprewell apologized for choking coach P.J. Carlesimo, Rick Pitino apologized for an extramarital affair, and Mike Tyson apologized for chomping off a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear. Michael Vick apologized for dog-fighting; Marion Jones apologized for using steroids before the Olympics; Kobe Bryant, while denying rape charges, apologized for cheating on his wife. Ben Roethlisberger apologized for various sketchy things. O.J. Simpson apologized for a botched robbery. Doug Baldwin apologized for making it look like he defecated a football during the Super Bowl. Lance Armstrong wouldn’t apologize and then bullied his accusers for years, until one day he shifted and went on an exasperating and never-ending apology tour. Pete Rose wrote his apologies on signed baseballs. John Daly has apologized so much it’s unclear what he’s apologizing for these days. Tiger Woods apologized and apologized and apologized and apologized for indiscretions in his personal life.
And, oh, the steroid in baseball apologies, they keep coming like mosquitoes in summer – Jason Giambi, Mark McGwire, Andy Pettitte, Gary Sheffield, Rafael Palmeiro, Manny Ramirez, Jose Canseco, Ryan Braun and now, most of all Alex Rodriguez.
“I take full responsibility for the mistakes that led to my suspension for the 2014 season,” he said in his handwritten letter to fans. “I regret that my actions made the situation worse than it needed to be.”
Stop! All of you! Why are you apologizing to us anyway? What do we have to do with it? Apologize to your wives, your teammates, your friends, your bosses, your family. Apologize to the people you hurt. Alex Rodriguez, you didn’t hurt me. You played awesome baseball, and I enjoyed it. I was at a game once where you hit what looked like a routine fly ball to center field, a can of corn, and we all watched with amazement as the center fielder edged a little bit back, a little bit more, a bit more, until finally his back was against the wall. The ball sailed 20 feet over his head. That was incredible. It was also, in all likelihood, drug-enhanced. There might be people you need to ask forgiveness from because you used PEDs. But I’m not one of those people. Leave me out of it.
And, while we’re at it, please don’t apologize to my kids. They forgive you too. They just like watching you run, throw, catch, jump, slide, hit, skate, whatever. They know what cheating means. And they don’t know you well enough to be disappointed or disillusioned. They will soldier on.
Look, we know, it isn’t easy living a public life, where everything you do and say is analyzed and scrutinized. It isn’t easy when your mistakes are chanted in ballparks and argued about on television and broken down in literary thought pieces. It isn’t easy when you write an apology note and then watch newspapers hire experts to analyze your handwriting.
But then you have to ask yourself: Why did you write that apology note in the first place? People are going to boo you mercilessly anyway. People are going to question your motives. So why? Our 10-year-old daughter apologizes all the time. She apologizes for mistakes she made, mistakes she almost made, mistakes she thought about making and mistakes that aren’t even mistakes like when she says that she doesn’t really like doughnuts. She apologizes so much that we came to realize that she just wants to be reassured that she’s not a bad person, that she is pardoned for not being perfect.
Alex Rodriguez, as far as I’m concerned, you’re forgiven. You can move on. You used steroids to play baseball better. You were one of many. You lied when asked about steroids. You were one of many. You half-apologized, kept using steroids, lied when caught again, tried some underhanded things to avoid facing the consequences. You were one of many.
And by one of many, I don’t just mean one of many baseball players. You were one of many who made mistakes and lied about them. You were one of many who bent the rules to get ahead. You were one of many who cared more about protecting yourself than doing what was right. By “many” I pretty much mean everybody. To A-Rod and and every athlete from now on: You’re forgiven here. Make things right with whoever and whatever matters in your life. Make things right with yourself. I don’t want your apologies. I don’t need your apologies. I have enough apologies to give out and accept in my own life.