Alex Rodriguez appears at a news conference following the announcement of his suspension from Major League Baseball for 211 games. (John Gress/Reuters)
There was a time, believe it or not, when Alex Rodriguez was popular. Really, genuinely, popular. Granted, it wasn't recently -- you'd have to go back to the Clinton Administration -- but as a young shortstop for the Seattle Mariners in the late 1990s, A-Rod was considered one of the game's true bright lights.
It wasn't just because of his on-the-field accomplishments, though these were remarkable: In 1996, at an age (20) when most players were in college or the low minor leagues, Alex Rodriguez was already the best in the American League. But A-Rod, too, was a saint: a humble, decent (Christian, natch) young man who called his mom five times a week, avoided alcohol, and worshipped his veteran teammates. "A guy this sweet," wrote Gerry Callahan in a fawning profile of Rodriguez for Sports Illustrated that year, "must be hiding some cavities."
If only Callahan knew what was coming. Seventeen years later, this very same Alex Rodriguez is the most hated player in baseball.
How hated? His fellow players voted him as the "biggest phony" in the majors. His own boss, New York Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman, told the media that he should "shut the fuck up" after A-Rod tweeted his satisfaction at being medically cleared to play. (Cashman disagreed with this diagnosis). His own fans boo him mercilessly. And The New York Post, its finger forever on the city's pulse, summed up its feelings for Rodriguez with this headline:
A full account of the reasons behind A-Rod's unpopularity would require volumes, but here are the highlights. First was the contract -- 10 years for $250 million -- which Rodriguez signed with the Texas Rangers in early 2001. Then there was his colorful private life: the extra-marital affairs, the dalliance with Madonna ("she's my fucking soulmate dude"), the unfortunate photograph in Details magazine of Rodriguez kissing his own reflection in a mirror, and the better-left-unexplained "centaur painting."
For all of his off-field problems, there was one thing that couldn't be taken away from A-Rod: his accomplishments on the field. But then came his revelation in early 2009 that, as a member of the Texas Rangers earlier in the decade, he had used performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). Suddenly, his once-pristine playing career came under suspicion. A-Rod being a buffoonish, narcissistic philanderer? Fine, he's a famous athlete -- it's normal. But a cheater? That was too much. For in the morality play that is 21st century baseball, any number of crimes are tolerated -- but using drugs to improve one's play on the field is not one of them.
And so this week, Commissioner Bud Selig did what fans had wanted him to do for years: He threw the book at A-Rod. Rodriguez was one of 13 players suspended for his link to BioGenesis, a since-shuttered "anti-aging" clinic in south Florida that allegedly supplied athletes with PEDs. The other 12 players, each first-time offenders, were suspended for 50 games each, as per guidelines established in baseball's (unfortunately-named) Joint Drug Agreement. Rodriguez, on the other hand, was banned for 211 games -- enough to keep him out of action for the rest of this season and all of next.
Never mind that Rodriguez's suspension is more than twice as long as any other non-permanent ban in baseball history. Or that, in recent baseball history, any number of criminals, drunks, and scoundrels have avoided any punishment from the league. Or that Alex Rodriguez -- still -- has never failed a drug test, which is (in theory) the basis for suspending players under the JDA. Or that Major League Baseball's investigation of BioGenesis relies heavily on one witness -- clinic founder Tony Bosch -- who may be slightly less than reliable. Or that 211 games is an arbitrary total, dependent more on the whims of the league's game schedule than any sense of proportional punishment.
Rodriguez, alone among the BioGenesis 14 (counting Ryan Braun, banned for 64 games last month), has chosen to appeal his suspension. In the coming days, then, Selig and Major League Baseball will reveal, precisely, what merited the 211 game suspension. It may be that the league has incontrovertible evidence that Rodriguez' sins were grave enough -- he is alleged to have tried to obtain and destroy evidence, a claim A-Rod denies -- that an ordinary 50-game suspension would be insufficient. Or, possibly, an arbitrator will determine that Rodriguez should be regarded as just another player who made an error in judgment, rather than a pariah deserving of harsher punishment.
Either way, it's hard to escape the sense that the Alex Rodriguez suspension was Bud Selig at his worst -- tackling the steroid problem by going after a player who had basically run out of defenders. Not that I, or anyone else, should feel sorry for him. Alex Rodriguez has lived a charmed life. Through his career, he has earned more than $350 million in salary (plus more in endorsements), dated Hollywood stars like Cameron Diaz and Kate Hudson, and won a World Series -- all the while playing a children's game for a living. He's hardly a sympathetic character. But that doesn't mean that he deserves special opprobrium -- cavities or not.
Forget the Common Core, Finland’s youngsters are in charge of determining what happens in the classroom.
“The changes to kindergarten make me sick,” a veteran teacher in Arkansas recently admitted to me. “Think about what you did in first grade—that’s what my 5-year-old babies are expected to do.”
The difference between first grade and kindergarten may not seem like much, but what I remember about my first-grade experience in the mid-90s doesn’t match the kindergarten she described in her email: three and a half hours of daily literacy instruction, an hour and a half of daily math instruction, 20 minutes of daily “physical activity time” (officially banned from being called “recess”) and two 56-question standardized tests in literacy and math—on the fourth week of school.
That American friend—who teaches 20 students without an aide—has fought to integrate 30 minutes of “station time” into the literacy block, which includes “blocks, science, magnetic letters, play dough with letter stamps to practice words, books, and storytelling.” But the most controversial area of her classroom isn’t the blocks nor the stamps: Rather, it’s the “house station with dolls and toy food”—items her district tried to remove last year. The implication was clear: There’s no time for play in kindergarten anymore.
Even in big cities like Tokyo, small children take the subway and run errands by themselves. The reason has a lot to do with group dynamics.
It’s a common sight on Japanese mass transit: Children troop through train cars, singly or in small groups, looking for seats.
They wear knee socks, polished patent-leather shoes, and plaid jumpers, with wide-brimmed hats fastened under the chin and train passes pinned to their backpacks. The kids are as young as 6 or 7, on their way to and from school, and there is nary a guardian in sight.
A popular television show called Hajimete no Otsukai, or My First Errand, features children as young as two or three being sent out to do a task for their family. As they tentatively make their way to the greengrocer or bakery, their progress is secretly filmed by a camera crew. The show has been running for more than 25 years.
A new study finds that people today who eat and exercise the same amount as people 20 years ago are still fatter.
There’s a meme aimed at Millennial catharsis called “Old Economy Steve.” It’s a series of pictures of a late-70s teenager, who presumably is now a middle-aged man, that mocks some of the messages Millennials say they hear from older generations—and shows why they’re deeply janky. Old Economy Steve graduates and gets a job right away. Old Economy Steve “worked his way through college” because tuition was $400. And so forth.
We can now add another one to that list: Old Economy Steve ate at McDonald’s almost every day, and he still somehow had a 32-inch waist.
A study published recently in the journal Obesity Research & Clinical Practice found that it’s harder for adults today to maintain the same weight as those 20 to 30 years ago did, even at the same levels of food intake and exercise.
Meaning comes from the pursuit of more complex things than happiness
"It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness."
In September 1942, Viktor Frankl, a prominent Jewish psychiatrist and neurologist in Vienna, was arrested and transported to a Nazi concentration camp with his wife and parents. Three years later, when his camp was liberated, most of his family, including his pregnant wife, had perished -- but he, prisoner number 119104, had lived. In his bestselling 1946 book, Man's Search for Meaning, which he wrote in nine days about his experiences in the camps, Frankl concluded that the difference between those who had lived and those who had died came down to one thing: Meaning, an insight he came to early in life. When he was a high school student, one of his science teachers declared to the class, "Life is nothing more than a combustion process, a process of oxidation." Frankl jumped out of his chair and responded, "Sir, if this is so, then what can be the meaning of life?"
For some parents, the deadline for a kid's financial independence has gotten an extension.
My 22-year-old daughter, Emma, waved goodbye to her college campus last spring and walked into a job this fall. Given the still-tepid state of the economy and all the stories—in the news and from friends—about recent graduates who can’t find work, you might well imagine that my husband and I are thrilled. And we are. Sort of.
Emma’s job is a good one, and she is lucky to have it. She is an editorial assistant at a well-respected magazine. But it is the kind of job that countless millennials are landing these days: part-time, low paying, with no benefits.
So, after we spentnearly a quarter of a million dollars on her college education, one thing has become clear: Our investment in our daughter’s future is far from over.
In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education—and mental health.
Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense. Last December, Jeannie Suk wrote in an online article for The New Yorker about law students asking her fellow professors at Harvard not to teach rape law—or, in one case, even use the word violate (as in “that violates the law”) lest it cause students distress. In February, Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University, wrote an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education describing a new campus politics of sexual paranoia—and was then subjected to a long investigation after students who were offended by the article and by a tweet she’d sent filed Title IX complaints against her. In June, a professor protecting himself with a pseudonym wrote an essay for Vox describing how gingerly he now has to teach. “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me,” the headline said. A number of popular comedians, including Chris Rock, have stopped performing on college campuses (see Caitlin Flanagan’s article in this month’s issue). Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher have publicly condemned the oversensitivity of college students, saying too many of them can’t take a joke.
What happens when a father, alarmed by his 13-year-old daughter's nightly workload, tries to do her homework for a week
Memorization, not rationalization. That is the advice of my 13-year-old daughter, Esmee, as I struggle to make sense of a paragraph of notes for an upcoming Earth Science test on minerals. “Minerals have crystal systems which are defined by the # of axis and the length of the axis that intersect the crystal faces.” That’s how the notes start, and they only get murkier after that. When I ask Esmee what this actually means, she gives me her homework credo.
Esmee is in the eighth grade at the NYC Lab Middle School for Collaborative Studies, a selective public school in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. My wife and I have noticed since she started there in February of last year that she has a lot of homework. We moved from Pacific Palisades, California, where Esmee also had a great deal of homework at Paul Revere Charter Middle School in Brentwood. I have found, at both schools, that whenever I bring up the homework issue with teachers or administrators, their response is that they are required by the state to cover a certain amount of material. There are standardized tests, and everyone—students, teachers, schools—is being evaluated on those tests. I’m not interested in the debates over teaching to the test or No Child Left Behind. What I am interested in is what my daughter is doing during those nightly hours between 8 o’clock and midnight, when she finally gets to bed. During the school week, she averages three to four hours of homework a night and six and a half hours of sleep.
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
“During the 100 days before the relationship starts, we observe a slow but steady increase in the number of timeline posts shared between the future couple.”
Facebook might understand your romantic prospects better than you do.
In a blog post published yesterday, the company’s team of data scientists announced that statistical evidence hints at budding relationships before the relationships start.
As couples become couples, Facebook data scientist Carlos Diuk writes, the two people enter a period of courtship, during which timeline posts increase. After the couple makes it official, their posts on each others’ walls decrease—presumably because the happy two are spending more time together.
During the 100 days before the relationship starts, we observe a slow but steady increase in the number of timeline posts shared between the future couple. When the relationship starts ("day 0"), posts begin to decrease. We observe a peak of 1.67 posts per day 12 days before the relationship begins, and a lowest point of 1.53 posts per day 85 days into the relationship. Presumably, couples decide to spend more time together, courtship is off, and online interactions give way to more interactions in the physical world.