Loyalty: The Harshest Virtue

How sinners play the virtuous for suckers

By Robert A. George
|  Friday, Feb 20, 2009  |  Updated 1:18 AM EDT
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Loyal to a fault, Alex Rodriguez's New York Yankees teammates rally to support him at his press conference, explaining his steroid usage.

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There was something oddly familiar about Alex Rodriguez's Tuesday press conference on his steroid usage. I suddenly had a flashback to Eliot Spitzer and his wife Silda Wall nearly a year ago. 

Though A-Rod's teammates sat together in the audience rather than right next to the embattled superstar like Silda did with Spitzer when he admitted to cheating with a prostitute the basic message conveyed in two similar settings was the same: The superstar has screwed up royally.

He had (using different senses of the word) "cheated." 

But, in the case of Silda Wall, she chooses to put her personal loyalty and evident marriage vows over the feelings of betrayal that she must undoubtedly feel.  Meanwhile A-Rod's teammates, regardless of how they must feel about the fact that Mr. Drama Player completely distracting everyone from what should be an exuberant spring training -- are obligated by team loyalty to "show up" at this press conference. 

What is it about "loyalty" that makes it such a harsh taskmaster?  

In addition to Eliot and Silda, there's also Bill and Hillary -- not to mention Bill's entire administration (including VP Al Gore). Many of the reasons are personal and private that cause one individual to stay with another, even though, in so doing, the innocent party doesn't just agree to overlook the sins of the offender, the innocent essentially takes on those transgressions.

For a wife, like Silda Wall Spitzer, that means she has to take the abuse of the many observers who condemn her for literally "standing by her man" during a humiliating press conference -- and then, apparently, deciding not to divorce him afterwards.

In the political drama of ten years ago, arguably, Hillary Clinton's decision worked out for her, as she ended up a U.S. senator, presidential candidate and current Secretary of State. On the other hand, Al Gore's loyalty arguably cost him the presidency, losing to a candidate who pointedly promised to restore "honor and dignity" to the White House.

And now, we have A-Rod, who has admitted his "infidelity" to the game, by allowing steroids to be injected into his arm -- supposedly just during the a three-year period. But, as with the other cheaters, the cost of loyalty may be a steep one. Shortstop Derek Jeter -- who was at the press conference to "support" Rodriguez on Tuesday -- came out Wednesday to remind reporters that not all players were using performance enhancing drugs. It was (in his view) just a small minority.

No sooner did he go on record with that than he was the target of a pretty strong column asking why he hadn't spoken out on steroids before. Now, this was rather amazing, given how Jeter has been the golden boy of New York baseball for a dozen years. Yet, he is now being seen critically because he is trying to 1) support his teammate and 2) speak out for the broader integrity of the game. 

For this, he gets slapped down. 

Guess that's what you get for trying to be too loyal to both your teammate and the game.

Robert A. George is New York writer who dabbles in stand-up comedy.  He blogs at Ragged Thots.

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