Make no mistake about it: Alex Rodriguez's spread in the current issue of Details makes him look like a total tool. The photographer, Steven Klein, is an extremely creative force who enjoys pushing the comfort levels of both his subject and those looking at his work.
But with that being said, A-Rod is in no position to be making anyone uncomfortable, and because of that, he comes across as an insecure narcissist.
And trust me, if that were the whole story, I wouldn't be so irritated by the dialogue that has followed the photos' release.
But that's not the whole story.
In fact, the whole story has way more to do with us than it does him.
A-Rod is beautiful, but that's hardly a reason to hate him.
Now, you can hate him because he flaunts it.
You can hate him because he lied, because he cheated or because he's not Derek Jeter.
But most men, particularly the insecure ones, hate him because he reminds them of their own perceived shortcomings, and so to make themselves feel better, they call him the one word they have relied on to strip a man of his worth for decades: gay.
It's curious how technology makes it possible for anyone on the planet to pull up A-Rod's photo spread, and yet when it comes to discussing it, we're trapped on some sort of medieval hamster wheel.
- "He's on the DL"
"Mirror, mirror on the wall, Could this be the gayest pose of all?"
I'm not going to lie -- I'm not an A-Rod fan, and I do find some of the quips to be pretty funny. But the thing is, the pictures aren't really "gay" at all. They're just Rodriguez staring at himself next to a tire in an abandoned building. That's not gay; that's just high fashion, a la Tom Brady in a cut-off shirt holding a goat. I don't get it, and because I won't be caught dead wearing Stetson, I guess I don't have to.
Look, gay simply means you're attracted to the same gender -- that's it. It doesn't mean you have this burning desire to put on a dress, kiss yourself in the mirror or lie on a dirty mattress.
I asked former New York Giant Jason Sehorn what it was like on the field after he became the face of 2xist underwear, and he said he heard all sorts of negative comments.
"But I didn't care because I was making money and knew they were just jealous," he said. "I know who I am and what I'm about. Guys who do the most talking usually don't."
Another former NFL player, Tony McGee, said his sexuality often was questioned because of his looks.
"Guys will say anything on the field to try to get an edge," he said. "And for some of them, calling me 'pretty boy' was all it was. You do your thing during the game, and then it's over. But for others, it was really personal, like they just couldn't let it go."
I spoke with another retired player who didn't want his name mentioned, and he said he regretted taking certain photos because they played into how his teammates and coaches saw him. He even grew a beard to try to toughen his look.
"I don't think they thought I was gay necessarily, but they did test me more than some of the other players, checking to see if I was soft," he said.
Clearly, you don't have to be a gay male to be good looking or say, "Tom Brady is a good-looking guy", but you do have to be secure in who you are and who you are not. And obviously that's a tall order, considering that when many straight males talk about the appearance of another male in a positive way, he usually has to follow that up by punching a dude in the arm or adding a disclaimer such as, "My girl likes him, so I guess he's good looking." The true rub is knowing men don't have a problem judging a guy when he's not attractive.
- Larry Bird, Popeye Jones? Ugliest NBA players of all time.
David Beckham, Mike Piazza? Gay.
It's funny how A-Rod often is criticized for letting his insecurities get the best of him, yet it quite often is his male detractors who let their insecurities get the best of them when talking about him.
Well, as a gay man, I for one wish these so-called general managers would stop trying to assign players they don't want to my team. The gay community has enough drama to deal with. A-Rod and all his beauty and baggage are yours. So unless you're willing to swap Rodriguez for, say, RuPaul and a couple of second-round draft picks, you're just going to have to deal with it. And while we're negotiating, I'd like to swap Lance Bass and cash for Jon Stewart and a character from Family Guy to be named later.
LZ Granderson is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and a regular contributor to Page 2. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.