In the wrestling world, if you’re a good guy – you’re a face, and if you’re a bad guy – you’re a heel. A lot of politics goes into who gets a push as a face or a heel and its ultimately determined by the fans reactions to the wrestlers.
When the WWE started to showcase Stone Cold Steve Austin, he was a typical heel – bald head, all black attire, never smiled and played dirty. He was first greeted by boos from the crowd and then something happened – the fans loved him. The swearing, beer drinking loner who opposed all authority became the guy everyone rooted for. Even Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, was a cocky, arrogant heel who the crowd hated. . . then eventually they loved to hate. . . and ultimately ended up loving.
It seems that the WWE broke America’s code. The code is: if you’re told to hate something too much, you’ll eventually just love it.
How many times have you watched Al Pacino in Scarface and hoped by some miracle the movie has an alternate ending which keeps the cocaine fueled drug lord alive? For those that watched Gangs of New York -was there a character more entertaining than Daniel Day Lewis’ portrayal of the psychotic, Bill the Butcher? Tyler Durden ran mayhem in every major city in America, in the movie Fight Club – and yet you left the theatre thinking “he was probably the coolest guy ever. ” Pick a Joker – Jack Nicholson, the late Heath Ledger – hey even Caesar Romero – all portrayed what was supposed to be bad – but it was portrayed so well, we loved it.
In the case of Alex Rodriguez, he made himself the bad guy. Between the performance enhancing drugs, the lying and his “beef” with the golden-boy of the New York Yankees, Derek Jeter (the ultimate face) – Alex Rodriguez dug himself into a place that is rarely visited by one who at one time was considered to be a great in the game of baseball. The Biogenesis Scandal didn’t help his efforts in gaining any supporters either. He was suspended the entire 2014 season and since his suspension he’s been at war with the New York Yankees.
The Yankees tried to get out of his lucrative contract (including milestone bonuses) and made efforts publicly of not mentioning his name – and if his name was forced upon the Yankees organization, they would speak about him in obvious disgust.
Think about this. . .
Major League Baseball legitimately screwed up, when they couldn’t nail Barry Bonds for his use of performance enhancing drugs. While under speculation, Bonds was spitting in the MLB’s face by destroying it’s precious home run record. Bonds was “the one” Major League Baseball wanted, they couldn’t get him – so they had to make an example out of A-Rod. The difference between Bonds and A-Rod was that Bonds really deep down could care less what people thought of him while Alex has always been about his public perception. Major League Baseball was assisted by one of the most powerful franchise in professional sports, the New York Yankees, in trying to disgrace the name and reputation of Alex Rodriguez. They made sure newspapers graced their back and front pages with expressions like “A-Fraud” or “A-Roid” while reaching deep, seeking people who would do interviews with the sole purpose of “selling him out.”
People hated him already. This would surely build on that hatred and hopefully keep Alex Rodriguez away from the game of baseball for good. Right? . . . .
Alex had other plans.
Alex Rodriguez decided to “compound” his heel-like ways and formed a tag-team with Barry Bonds. Bonds worked as A-Rod’s hitting coach in the off-season, helping Rodriguez get his form back. This is like the Emperor in Star Wars taking Darth Vader under his wing.
A funny thing happened to the most hated man in baseball though. . . in spring training, he was greeted with applause and cheers. People yelling “Go Alex” while he was doing interviews. People got tired of the “piling on.” Even going into the season, when Alex Rodriguez stepped to the plate, fans cheered – when he hit his first homerun of the year, they applauded – even the next morning – sports radio and television personalities seemed to smile in re-calling the action.
Well, simply put – Major League Baseball and the New York Yankees tried so hard to vilify Alex Rodriguez that they made him a sympathetic character. They somehow made him the underdog people could root for, he became the loner riding against authority and he became for the first time in his career – relatable.
The New York Yankees pulled the ultimate Vince McMahon move. They put Alex in a spot that looks impossible to get out of unscathed, so of course, us as humans we don’t want to see him get pummeled to a pulp, or kicked while he’s down – we’d rather see him claw his way back up and earn some respect.
If Major League Baseball would’ve went on with their business, without the smear campaign, there would be no pity for Alex. Instead, this all backfired. Sure Alex is far removed from the monster of a player he once was and nobody is certain how this will all turn out in the end, but one thing is for sure – A-Rod v.s. the Yanks, will be the only rivalry worth watching for baseball fans in New York this season. . .