Athletic Apologies: Love Means Always Having to Say ‘I’m Sorry’

By Katie Paine
You know it's a big deal when an admission of guilt on the part of a baseball player makes it into the first presidential press conference of a new administration. But when a Washington Post reporter asked newly elected President Obama what he thought of Yankee Alex Rodriguez's (aka A-Rod or A-Roid) admission to taking steroids, you could hear the gasps as far away as northern New Hampshire.
Was it really worth a question at the first presidential news conference? And, if so, why hadn't anyone asked for the president's response to another equally famous athlete's confession--that of Michael Phelps? Is it due to the fundamental differences in perception (marijuana = fun; steroids = cheating)? Or is it, as we suspect, the difference in the image of the people confessing, and each individual's relationships with his fans?
Relationships, whether they are between organizations and the public, athletes and fans or man and wife, are essentially based on a variety of factors, the most important being trust. What happened was that Rodriguez violated the implicit contract between star and fan, not by taking sterioids, but by lying about it and then confessing years later. After the initial trust was shaken, fans were still committed to the relationship because they were satisfied with his denials and with his performance. With his recent confession, he was admitting not just that he broke the law and violated the rules of the game, but that he wasn't deserving of the trust we placed in him. The principles of the relationship had broken down, so President Obama spoke for most fans when he said that it was disappointing.
On the other hand, our relationship with Michael Phelps is still pretty much intact.


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