It is not often that I look at Alex Rodriguez and say to myself: "Geez, I'm sure glad I grew up to become a rumpled sportswriter instead of a fabulously wealthy baseball legend who dates equally wealthy movie stars!"
But during Fox’s Super Bowl telecast on Sunday, when the camera cut away for a shot of one of the VIP suites, I found myself giving thanks to the confluence of events that have prevented my life from mirroring Alex Rodriguez’s.
Rodriguez, sitting alongside girlfriend Cameron Diaz, was minding his own business when Diaz grabbed a handful of popcorn and proceeded to spoon-feed him without a spoon, as if he were a goat at the children’s petting zoo.
The feeding took maybe four seconds – four intensely awkward seconds, among the most awkward in the history of Super Bowl telecasts, which is saying something.
Television viewers immediately broke into two camps: Those two or three human beings genuinely happy that Rodriguez has achieved some sort of bliss off the field and, well, everybody else.
It was as if that four-second cutaway shot captured the essence of Rodriquez.
A deadspin.com headline put it perfectly: “A-Rod Eats Popcorn In The Most A-Rod Way Possible.”
The episode soon might have been forgotten within a day or two, as most everything regarding a Super Bowl telecast tends to be, except that Rodriguez has a knack for turning any clumsy situation into a dust-up that’s even more clumsy.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times’ Bill Zwecker, who quoted an anonymous source on Tuesday, Rodriguez “really went ballistic – thinking the cameraman was out to get them in a paparazzi-like shot.”
Anyway, Rodriguez apparently extracted a promise from Fox that its cameras not intrude on him for the remainder of the game, and as much as I’m tempted to pile on the Yankee Pariah, I don’t blame him.
Can’t a celebrity ballplayer and a celebrity movie star enjoy the Super Bowl in a VIP suite without worrying that a TV camera will show their intimate popcorn-sharing experience to an audience of 111 million Americans?
Besides, what was Rodriguez supposed to do?
Put yourself in that predicament. The person next to you presents a hand – it’s full of hot popcorn – somewhere between your nose and your mouth. You’re chowing first, aren’t you? You’re chowing without wondering whether the popcorn offering will become a sort of national referendum on all that makes you obnoxious.
OK, now consider that the person next to you offering the popcorn is not just somebody, but the lovely and talented Cameron Diaz. Again, what are the options? To just say no? Or to create a confrontation?
Imagine that headline: “A-Rod Creates Ruckus, Miffed That Hand-Feeding Offering Wasn’t Kettle Corn.”
I’m sorry – I guess I’m old-fashioned about certain things – but I’ve got this stodgy conviction that what happens in a Super Bowl VIP suite should stay in a Super Bowl VIP suite.
Before the weird A-Rod moment, Hall of Fame coach John Madden, seated to the right of former presdent George W. Bush and Mrs. Bush, was seen delivering a text message on his cell phone, and the imagination wanders: Does a text message sent from Madden contain any words other than “Bam!”, “Ooh!” and “Wow!”
While Madden might’ve gained even more admirers for his record-setting effort – Oldest VIP Guest To Send A Text Message From A Super Bowl VIP Suite – it was difficult to sidestep the fact that the cutaway shot was an invasion of his privacy. Ever since the Fox Network’s evolution into a major player in sports broadcasting, cutaway shots of fans in the stands have been a staple.
World Series telecasts are enriched by the occasional cutway shots of nervous fans, impassioned fans, distraught fans and, yes, sleepy fans. But just because you’re rich and famous doesn’t mean a public scene should be made of your intimate moments.
Alex Rodriguez was offered some popcorn on Sunday. He responded like anybody else would – he ate it – only to be further ridiculed as national laughingstock .
I’m sure glad I wasn’t in that VIP seat next to Cameron Diaz, commanding four seconds during the most-watched broadcast in American history.
A movie star putting a handful of popcorn between my nose and my mouth?
I would have sneezed, spilling 16 ounces of beer on the wife of the governor in front me.