The trophy, of course, was permanently retired the moment Alex Rodriguez did. A-Rod was the single most polarizing athlete New York ever has known. There were others before him. As we will soon discuss, there are others presently playing.
But Rodriguez was a class unto himself. He was alternately dazzling and infuriating, often in the same season, sometimes in the same game. He specialized in drama, not all of it contained to the baseball field. And the feelings he generated … well, it was unprecedented.
Some loved him. Some loathed him. But there was rarely a time when you would ask a Yankees fan, “What do you think of Alex Rodriguez?” and the reply would be muted.
So if you’re comparing other polarizing sports figures in town, you measure them all against the great A-Rod show that ruled New York from 2004-16. Among the folks who make New Yorkers take sides, you have a colorful assortment of figures now to choose from.
The heir to A-Rod in so many ways, though Melo never has had the crowning moment that Rodriguez did in 2009 — when he was the engine that drove the Yankees to the most recent of their 27 championships. In so many ways, when you read and listen to fans talk about Melo, you easily could substitute “A-Rod” and the complaint/compliment still would make perfect sense.
The passing of time has lessened the severity of the schism between Melo backers and Melo hackers, and it has been so long since the Knicks were anything but a cartoon. Still, for every passionate defense of Melo you’ll see on social media or in your inbox, you’re liable to hear a prosecution of his time here that is equally stirring. For as long as he remains a New Yorker, he is A-Rod’s heir in this department.
Odell Beckham Jr.
What separates him from Anthony or Rodriguez is you’re unlikely ever to hear a Giants fan complain about his performance — the notable exception being his subpar playoff showing against the Packers in January. Mostly, Giants fans empty the thesaurus of adjectives watching him play, which is really the only way to do it justice. On that there is little debate.
What causes the rift is the Other Stuff, the most recent example being his public desire to be the sport’s highest-paid player, but a list that also includes his blowing off (voluntary) summer workouts, his temper, his extra-oomph celebrations, his occasional lapses of on-field reason and decorum. Mostly, these are things Giants fans…