These days, Alex Rodriguez-- more popularly known as A-Rod-- is much in the media, but as a media personality. There he is joking with his fellow sportscasters on ESPN baseball broadcasts. There he is socializing with his lady fair, Jennifer Lopez. So if you only know A-Rod in the present, you might view him as a likable and even enviable celebrity at the cusp of his career. And this is why a new documentary, titled SCREWBALL, is ever so enlightening.
Once upon a time of course, A-Rod was neck-deep in steroid abuse, so much so that he even was suspended by Major League Baseball. A-Rod ended up taking space on the bench for the entire 2014 baseball season. But that was four years ago and, these days, four years is the equivalent of four-hundred years. What matters is how he is being marketed today. So SCREWBALL works as a sobering reminder of A-Rod’s history, and his less-than-exemplary past.
The primary on-camera personality in SCREWBALL is Tony Bosch, described in the film as a “bio-chemist” but who really was a “bio-hacker”: the once-upon-a-time owner of a now-infamous Florida medical clinic. Posing as a doctor, Bosch illegally supplied steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs to ballplayers. A-Rod was perhaps his highest-profile user.
My sense is that Bosch agreed to participate in SCREWBALL because he wants to reignite his ten minutes of fame. Somehow, one does not think that Tony Bosch will come away with his own sports talk show. Indeed, as depicted here, Bosch and A-Rod are two of countless characters in the biogenesis story. They include major league all-stars and mob-connected troublemakers, among many others.
Also of note in SCREWBALL is director Billy Corben’s choice of casting children in scenes featuring everyone from Tony Bosch to A-Rod himself. The result is that SCREWBALL transcends being an A-Rod biopic, or any sort of biopic. The presence of the young mustachioed performers adds a sense of farcicality to the proceedings. They are like 21st-century “Our Gang” members who have been transformed into “Our Gangsters.”
The bottom line here is that, despite its comic elements and its presence of a range of famous names, SCREWBALL is a sobering reminder of what A-Rod once was, once upon a not-so-distant time. Plus, it is an eye-opening reminder of how individuals these days are sold to the public. Certainly, money and press releases take precedence over facts, over truth.
Rob Edelman teaches film history courses at the University at Albany. He has contributed to many arts and baseball-related publications; his latest book, which he co-edited, is From Spring Training To Screen Test: Baseball Players Turned Actors. His frequent collaborator is his wife, fellow WAMC film commentator Audrey Kupferberg.
The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.