But filter out the extraneous factors -- his polished appearance, his measured words and his eye-to-eye stare with "60 Minutes" interviewer Katie Couric -- and what A-Rod's message conveyed was really no different than that of one-time teammate Roger Clemens.
The Coward, of course, has lent his "voice" only one time in the eight days since his name turned up 82 times in the Mitchell Report, and he used agent Randy Hendricks to distribute what appears to be a lie. In a statement released by Hendricks, Clemens vehemently denied ever using illegal substances and promised to answer any questions "at the appropriate time."
Uh, save it Roger. Unless you want to use the airwaves to issue a full confession, complete with the "how" and "why," don't bother. Because with each word that you and your brethren "speak," the more impossible it is to assume any of it is true. Which is to say this: A-Rod may well have been honest when he told Couric that he has never used illegal substances or felt the need to, but not even the boy who cried wolf is buying it.
Just ask a guy who has made his living studying how human societies construct and create meaning about what they do, particularly through sports.
Of course, this is where the disclaimer comes in. A-Rod has not been caught in a lie, at least not yet. Clemens, too, for all the evidence that seems to conspire against him, hasn't been proven a liar in a court of law. Thus, to call both of them liars is a risky leap, because in general, that's not what we've been culturally educated to do.
Yet, we've also been schooled to believe that if something looks rotten, and smells rotten, then ...
"I'm pretty cynical, and there's good reason for us to be cynical," Van Rheenen said. "For example, the Marion Jones case."
Oh yeah, that. Surely, we haven't forgotten that before the former track and field star was disgraced, she too issued vehement denials, pointed to the 160 drug tests that she had passed and filed a defamation suit against BALCO founder Victor Conte. Not exactly a resounding precedent for her needle-injecting peers.
Safe to say, however, that she is not alone. Rafael Palmeiro lied. Mark McGwire refused to discuss his past. Sammy Sosa forgot English. And they all did it under oath in front of Congress.
Just in the past year, denials had been issued by Mitchell Report alum Andy Pettitte, Brian Roberts, F.P. Santangelo and Fernando Vina. Pettitte and Roberts attacked reporters who dared ask them about steroids. Santangelo, a radio talk-show host in Sacramento, repeatedly told his listeners he never used the stuff. And Vina, an ESPN commentator, used that platform to denounce users.
Thank goodness these guys weren't protecting the sheep.
The tragic part is that a greater good could result if the men on the wrong end of the needle simply told us everything. It would educate children, enlighten the public, and put us inside the heads of the men who felt the need to do it.
Instead, they cower. Pettitte, Roberts, Santangelo and Vina (while looking like a 12-year-old caught with porn under his mattress) have "confessed," and others are sure to follow. But even the confessions come with more than a reasonable doubt because that's what happens when you belong to a fraternity of pathological liars.
"This mystique of the sports culture as being clean and sometimes pure, we've got to give that up," Van Rheenen said. "... This situation is more complicated, however. ... We are absolutely applauding medical sciences we can get in healing people and making people have better lives. And at the same time we want our athletes to be faster and stronger."
What the A-Rods and Clemenses and Pettittes of the world could do is help us understand a world where being bigger, faster and stronger is the objective of the job, one in which the lure of steroids and HGH may give way to the temptation of genetic tinkering.
All it would take is a healthy dose of the truth. Until further notice, unfortunately, we may never really know when it's delivered.