Category Archives: apology

Odell Beckham might be really sorry.

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So we went from a sorry situation, Odell Beckham Jr.’s reckless and vicious comportment during the Giants-Carolina Panthers game, to Beckham’s issued apology—which isn’t the same as saying he regretted trying to take off an opponent’s head.

In fact Beckham, glorified for the neither moral nor immoral ability to catch footballs with one hand, didn’t come out with his apology until his one-game suspension (which he had appealed) was upheld. And even then, his expression of remorse was offered to his teammates, the Giants organization and fans. With no mention of either the Panthers or defensive back Josh Norman, whom Beckham very well could have rendered a paraplegic by launching himself—helmet-first and full-speed—at Norman’s head.

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Perhaps Beckham’s “apology” fit the rarely employed definition: A justification of his actions rather than an expression of penitence—the old Plato Apology of Socrates defending himself in 399 B.C. against charges of “corrupting the young.” The 23-year-old Beckham did go on about how “a lot of kids look up to me as a role model” and how that “is a responsibility I accept and take seriously.”

Certainly, Giants coach Tom Coughlin and some Beckham teammates did the Platonic thing in countenancing Beckham’s relentlessly nasty play by maintaining that the Panthers had heaped contumely upon him. “He was provoked,” Coughlin said.

The coach cited reports that a member of the Panthers, during pre-game warmups, had threatened Beckham while holding a baseball bat, and painted Beckham as something of a victim because Norman also violated the no-roughing rules. (Norman was fined but not suspended.)

But the NFL dismissed, for lack of evidence, suggestions that Beckham was the target of opponents’ homophobic slurs. (As if that were license to attempt inflicting serious physical harm.) Just as easy to disregard was Beckham’s post-game excuse that his actions merely were a function of manly competitiveness—the last resort of cheap-shot scoundrels.

So, unable to talk his way out of the suspension, Beckham released his written apology in which his (or his consultant’s) eloquent wording acknowledged that he had “dropped the ball on sportsmanship.” More than one commentator called that a “perfect apology.” But people who study these things have noted how they too often are “part of the ritual,” as author Paul Slansky put it, allowing offenders to “just move on.”

Slansky, who co-authored the 2006 book, “My Bad: 26 Years of Public Apologies and the Appalling Behavior That Inspired Them,” once told me he considered the public mea culpa “rarely sincere because it’s obligatory. It’s meaningless. [A person] apologized; how easy is that? You have to prove you mean it. Otherwise, it’s just all p.r.”

It is to Beckham’s benefit that there is a willingness in the sport’s culture to quickly leave unpleasantries behind. “Football fans—and the football media—have zero long-term memory,” DJ Gallo wrote in The Guardian. “Our brains function like we’ve taken years of spearings from Odell Beckham.” Outrage over some player’s misdeeds regularly is replaced by hearty cheers as soon as he resumes excelling for the home team.

At this point, Beckham must be given the benefit of the doubt. University of Massachusetts psychiatry professor Aaron Lazare, who spent 12 years researching his book, “On Apology,” has allowed that “people do apologize for genuinely humanist reasons.” But other times, he said, “they do it to get off the hook.”

Maybe this is a case of a real apology, with the ability to remove a desire for revenge, to encourage forgiveness, to relieve guilt. Coughlin insisted that Beckham “felt bad” about the whole thing. Or maybe it’s just Beckham bunkum. We’ll see.

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To Alex Rodriguez: Sorry, that’s been done

Surely this latest Alex Rodriguez mea culpa is a variant of the old Pete and Repeat joke. Rodriguez apologized and what was left?

Not belief.

His hand-written letter “To the Fans” is a virtual echo of his Feb. 9, 2009 press conference, when Rodriguez belatedly denied his own denials of steroid use six years earlier. Properly contrite, he assured then of a road-to-Damascus conversion, welcoming the world’s judgment of his righteous actions going forward.

Repeat.

In his missive this week, Rodriguez segued quickly from taking “full responsibility for my mistakes” to declaring himself “ready to put this chapter behind me.”

If that doesn’t remind everyone of Yogi Berra’s redundant old line about revisiting déjà vu, it certainly conjures Oscar Wilde’s “Importance of Being Earnest.” You know, the play about protagonists maintaining fictitious personae to escape burdensome social obligations. About pretending to be a person other than oneself.

Repeat.

In 2009, Rodriguez buttressed his apology by insisting he had sworn off doping before joining the Yankees in 2004. And here (in my Newsday report below) was steroid expert Terry Todd’s immediate and, it turns out, thoroughly reasonable reaction:

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“Anytime anyone says something like that to me, I’m always very skeptical.”

A former Olympic weightlifter who founded the center for physical culture and sports at the University of Texas and whose research includes hundreds of interviews of steroid users over several decades, Todd said then that Rodriguez “damn sure could have been taking testosterone” right up to his pubic 2009 confession.

In fact, we learned soon enough, Rodriguez damn sure was still doping at least up to 2013, when the Biogenesis scandal further slimed him. Too, there was the question, Todd said, of whether a former user of performance-enhancing drugs continues to be “advantaged over someone of equal ability and talents who never has taken any drugs at all. Most of the people I’ve discussed this with, who have wide experiences with steroids, seem to believe that you do have an advantage that never goes away.”

The theory is that, since ability in any sport is to some degree psychological, when a new level of performance is reached while doping, that new standard is “no longer a bridge too far in your mind,” Todd said. “And the fact these drugs took you to that place you couldn’t have gotten to on your own, just the fact that your muscles handled this new speed or weight means, in a physiological way, you have created perhaps subtle changes in your muscle structure, in the tendons and ligaments, that did not completely dissipate.”

To Todd, not only is that argument logical but, more to the point, “there definitely are personality types who, once they’ve experienced improvements in strength or muscle size that is greater than they felt they could have gotten [without steroids], they feel this [stronger, larger person] is them. And they are loathe to give that up.”

Sounds like our boy.

Adding to that toxic mix is whether fans can abandon their own addiction—to embracing a winner, no matter his methods. For all the talk-radio bluster now skewing toward making Yankee Stadium a No-A-Rod Zone—a reminder that Rodriguez is a truly exasperating presence for reasons beyond doping—it is worth remembering the 2013 season, when Rodriguez, playing through his pending suspension, was lustily cheered whenever he produced with his bat.

I was there, too, in early 1999, when the Knicks made a controversial trade for the disgraced Latrell Sprewell, who had been forced to sit out the previous season for attempting to choke P.J. Carlesimo, his coach with the Golden State Warriors. The very week of that Knicks’ transaction, then-Madison Square Garden president Dave Checketts called Sprewell “the poster boy for bad behavior in the NBA,” and there was plenty of sentiment among Knicks’ followers that they wanted nothing to do with a bad actor such as Sprewell.

Then, in his first game as a Knick—an exhibition against the Nets—Sprewell scored 27 points. Garden fans showered him with two raucous standing ovations and, during a practice session open to the public the next day, Sprewell was the most sought-after player for autographs and adoring chit-chat.

No wonder the border between admirable athletic feats and personal goodness appears so fuzzy to a fellow like Rodriguez, the object of praise all his life for his on-the-field skills. While he certainly takes his baseball performances seriously, his continuing doping regimen—even as he was serving as a spokesman for the Taylor Hooton Foundation’s campaign against steroid use, cautioning young players against demon drugs—established his conviction that his only obligation to the public is to hit the ball over the wall. Using whatever means available.

So he has again declared himself clean and enlightened. An ongoing joke, right? A gotcha riddle. Pete and Repeat…..