a-rod Archives - The Jose Vilson

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A-Rod Can Haz Dominican Culture Now?

by Jose Vilson on December 8, 2008

in Jose

Alex Rodriguez's Pledge of Allegiance

Alex Rodriguez

Back in July of 2005, the World Baseball Classic committees were just getting their international rosters, and most people stuck to their countries of origin, as stipulated by the rules. With 16 teams in the competition, many of us baseball fans almost salivated to the chin being able to watch these all-stars playing on the same teams. Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones, and Ken Griffey Jr. all on the same squad? Jose Reyes, David Ortiz, Albert Pujols in one line-up?

Whoa.

And Alex Rodriguez, arguably the best all-around player in baseball, has the choice of playing for either of these teams.

And he chose the Dominican Republic. No harm, no foul.

Yet, what ensued afterwards was a backlash of sorts, including meetings I’m sure very few of us were privy to, and he went from being 100% sure he’d play for the Dominican Republic to not playing for any team whatsoever to eventually playing for the US team. It’s bad enough his reputation as an asshole who wants to please everyone just wouldn’t go away. Now, he’s back to dealing with identity politics that are, in many ways, out of his control. As some people may know, both of his parents are Dominican and he has dual citizenship in both Dominican Republic and the United States, where he’s lived most of his life. He went from living in Washington Heights in NYC to Florida, where his only father figures were his baseball coaches growing up, but his mom still instilled in him some cultural pride, though not ostensibly.

Anyone who considers themselves multi-ethnic or has done a little studying on multi-ethnic people understand that, despite our allegiance to our ancestors’ countries, we also contribute to the American culture and when we go back to those countries of origin, we are usually considered Americans. Even with an accent as heavy as Alex’s, he’s probably looked at as American, at least subconsciously. But that’s the struggle for Alex: forces from the people who pay him his hundreds of millions, including sponsors and players’ unions, and others like his family who he seems to treasure and the 20-some-odd years he wasn’t an American icon, but a Dominican playing America’s favorite pastime.

Yet, on Saturday, December 6th, 2008, and at the behest of David Ortiz, Alex Rodriguez did what he should have done back in 2005. He signed on to play for the Dominican Republic.

Now, the response is completely different. Many Dominicans are lauding the move, calling it “authentic” and “true to what he really is.” Yet, Americans, who were indifferent back in 2005 when he first made the decision to play for the Dominican Republic, now have a growing resentment about this move, calling him “Benedict A-Rod” among other things. And to all of them, I say …

GET OVER YOURSELVES!!!

I can’t believe the gall of anyone who so much as whispers Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez’ name and can say he’s not Dominican with a straight face. So what if he was born here? Does that completely strip him of any culture that’s instilled in him? Does that make him any less of a man because he is Dominican? Why do people criticize him for making this move? Is it because he was an American-born Dominican rather than a Dominican boy some scout made a lot of lavish promises to and kept in a perpetual farm system? Is it his blond streaks, extra-marital affairs, and rumors with Madonna and maybe some other models here and there? Is it because he’s living the American Dream that so many of you advertise so flauntingly to the rest of the world? Is it because you just need any excuse to berate and denigrate A-Rod, whose name someone shrunk just so they could Americanize it?

And believe me, even as a New York Yankees fan, I get it: he comes off as an arrogant, selfish, rich, undeserving, flip-flopping, callous asshole. I personally don’t see it that way, but I understand where it comes from. But none of this, and I mean NONE of this, gives anyone any right to tell that man whether he gets to be Dominican or celebrate his Dominican culture, and anyone who’s a real fan of the man shouldn’t judge him. Even if you don’t like him as a player, respect his right to his own cultures.

Both of them.

And when he comes to play in the New Yankee Stadium in March of 2009, he’ll be pledging to the American flag right along with everyone else in there.

Jose, who will be waving any one of 2 flags during the WBC, since Haiti doesn’t have a baseball team like that …

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Juneteenth: From Curt Flood to A-Rod

by Jose Vilson on June 19, 2008

in Jose

Juneteenth: for many African-Americans in this country, this is the true day to celebrate the emancipation of slavery. Though the Emancipation Proclamation came out late September of 1862, it really didn’t free the slaves per se. From what I’ve read, slaves in the North were still beholden to their slave-owners, and it didn’t have much of an effect on the slaves of the day anyways. Juneteenth celebrates Texas’ (and eventually most of the union’s states) enforcement of the abolition of slavery.

When I think about that, I think back to an original post I wrote about the Holocaust and the Maa’fa, and the various (and disparate) opinions on whether these tragedies could even be compared to each other. I also thought about the systematic implications it meant for the groups that it primarily affected negatively. And lastly, believe it or not, I thought about baseball, and the argument that Curt Flood brought up when he filed a lawsuit against Major League Baseball.

See, Curt Flood was a pivotal figure in MLB, and the one man everyone points to when they look at baseball’s free agent market today. In 1969, he was almost traded away from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies, an offer he didn’t feel like accepting. Actually, he stated that not only was he going to look at the Phillies’ “offer,” but look at what other teams have to offer for his services as well, thus setting the language for what we consider as free agency this day. He strongly compared the reserve clause, which made sure the team that first gave you an offer to play baseball kept you in their stable forever even after your contract has ended, to slavery, which in this country kept getting more technical as slaves became more creative with their rebellion.

His eventual loss of the lawsuit to MLB forced the baseball players to bond together and fight the reserve clause, thus opening the era for free agency. Fast-forward to today, and baseball players enjoy 6 digit salaries at minimum. The highest paid player in any major professional sport happens to be a Dominican man who makes close to $300 million, not including endorsements, hedge funds, and other investments. Alex Rodriguez has got it made.

But while that Dominican man’s making that kind of money, there are whole blocks in Washington Heights, a predominantly Dominican neighborhood, whose combined salary doesn’t even match what he gets a year. Tons of poor Latinos can only wish to have his success, luck, and fortunes. We all know this. What we often don’t ask ourselves is, if A-Rod’s making that type of money, imagine how much money the people paying him make. I mean, whatever the baseball player’s making, it’s got to be a small percentage of what the boss makes off his image and his and the other players’ play.

To this day, we still blame other workers for whatever change the next boss makes. People still get mad at teachers for having pensions, tenure, and summer vacations, but never ask why they’ve never demanded that of their own bosses. We still look at immigrants, illegal or otherwise, and blame them for taking all the jobs when many of those jobs are still available in abundance (this, I’ll definitely get into sooner than later). We still talk about unions who strike as inconveniencing us when they’re really fighting the unfair wages that most of us decry privately when we think about the price of gas, milk, and rice.

So on this Juneteenth, I can’t really say slavery is over except by law and overtly. We’re not in chains (though interestingly, the number of jails almost went up exponentially when slavery was over, and the number of jails is predicated on how many kids fail the 4th grade statewide tests). We do have a lot more opportunities than our predecessors have. And the mere candidacy of Barack Obama would not have been possible without the fight that so many others of all different backgrounds fought for. Yet, people still have a slave-like mentality in that they would prefer to blame the others instead of looking at what their getting compared to the bosses.

I’m certainly not saying that A-Rod’s not making waaaaaaay more than the average worker, but maybe we should realize that the opportunity he recieved came from the work others before him did to protest their bosses.

jose, who wonders if people are really going to think deeper about their relationship with their own bosses …

p.s. – Special shout-out to Carmen D. for your reminder of my prompt to the AfroSpear …

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