Bob Lutz

It's difficult to admire these guys

Alex Rodriguez finally hit home run No. 600 on Wednesday afternoon, and you want to know my reaction? Big freakin' deal.

I'm with the A-Fraud people who feel apathetic about anything A-Rod does in the game because of his admitted use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Rodriguez, though, is not necessarily Public Enemy No. 1 in the sports world this year. Nor is he the only former Golden Boy to turn to rust. It's happening everywhere as heroes transform into villains before our very eyes.

One day, ESPN announces that Brett Favre — according to sources — is retiring. The next, another ESPN report — this time quoting Favre — proclaims the Minnesota Vikings quarterback, who'll turn 41 soon, isn't yet sure of his decision.

ESPN and Favre must have a you-scratch-my-back-I'll-scratch-yours relationship because they sure are good for one another.

Favre is one of the greatest quarterbacks ever and one of the wishy-washiest people on the planet. We're long past the point where he's getting on my nerves.

Which brings us to LeBron James. The King must really like looking down on us little people because he took an hour of time on ESPN (there it is again) this summer to tell us of "The Decision."

He stabbed Cleveland Cavaliers fans in

the back, then twisted the knife and now you couldn't sell a James jersey to a naked woman standing in a crowded intersection in that town.

James went from being one of the faces of the NBA to one of the most two-faced players in the league's history. He took the money and ran to Miami, but not before he trounced on the bodies and souls of Cavaliers fans. He didn't just leave, he made a spectacle of leaving.

James has always been a guy I'd pay to watch play basketball. Now, I'd only pay to throw basketballs at his head.

James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are in Miami to conquer the world. But the world, hopefully, will resist. Whereas I've looked at the NBA only out of the corner of my eye, now I'm locked in to rooting for Chicago, Orlando, Boston, Atlanta, Washington — any Eastern Conference team that might be able to get in the Heat's way.

Finally, there's Tiger. For a guy who hasn't won a golf tournament this season, he still gets plenty of attention.

Tiger Woods, I'm not ashamed to say, was my guy for the past decade or so. I followed his every move and when he played in a tournament, I watched that tournament. You couldn't take your eyes off of Woods and that hasn't changed. What has changed is what you're looking at.

Even though he has a couple of top-five finishes in majors, it's obvious he's not the player he was before the... I can't mention it, children might be reading.

While it's true that Woods' life is his life, it's just as true that I don't have to continue to be a fan. It's my choice, and I've chosen to stop rooting for Woods.

He's a big boy; he'll be OK.

The year has been a stark reminder that we don't really know these athletes — these people — we hold in such high esteem.

It's also not as easy to conduct a private life as it used to be, not when superstar athletes are treated like movie stars and everyone is carrying a camera or a recorder.

Men behaving badly is much easier to capture in image and sound than it used to be.

I don't know if Favre sent a text message to some Vikings teammates telling them that he was finished with football this week. I only know that ESPN and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that players told the media outlets they received such a text.

And given Favre's difficulty in deciding whether he going or staying, it's plausible to believe he did send the text one day, then start to wish he hadn't the next. We're caught up in an endless loop of Favre's indecision and there's nothing we can do except endure. Just make sure to regularly rinse the nasty taste from your mouth.

Rodriguez at least came clean — albeit without a lot of details — about the substances he was putting into his mouth and other parts of his body.

Even so, instead of celebrating him as one of the greatest home-run hitters in history, we try instead to calculate just how many of his long balls were tainted by those chemicals.

Instead of applauding James' decision to chase a title somewhere other than Cleveland, we rightly chastise him for the way he went about leaving. Cleveland fans didn't deserve to be made fools of on national TV.

Four of the greatest athletes in sports, then, are enduring public relations hailstorms.

Rodriguez, Favre, James and Woods are rare in their abilities. We should be holding them up as prime examples of the best sports has to offer. And in some ways, they are.

But in others, they're much less than perfect. Their flaws are as obvious as their gifts.

One hit a monumental home run Wednesday, but nobody is rushing to put up a monument.

Another has no problem paralyzing his organization — willing as that organization is to be paralyzed — while he tries to decide whether to play or not. Again.

Another didn't just leave a city in which he was revered, he doused it with kerosene and tossed a match.

And the fourth has taken his love life up a notch from those early days of Spin the Bottle, to say the least.

Pick your sports heroes carefully. And be prepared for the relationships to end badly.

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