This story appears in ESPN The Magazines September 5 NFL Preview Issue. Subscribe today!IT SOUNDS SO inconceivable, naive, delusional, but it was only a decade ago that Alex Rodriguez was the antidote to a ruinous generation of drugs and greed. He was the choice of the really smart baseball men, such as Theo Epstein and Brian Cashman, both of whom traded for him, and a paralyzed commissioner such as Bud Selig, who tolerated Barry Bonds holding the home run record because soon enough Rodriguez would shatter it and make the game whole again. He would make them clean.Alex Rodriguez only made it worse. The Golden Boy wasnt so golden after all. Following a bizarre week in which the Yankees held a retirement ceremony for him even though hed never announced he was quitting, Rodriguez was discarded without much care. Even the pregame celebration before his final game as a Yankee was curtailed by thunder, lightning and rain, fitting for those who found him less of a True Yankee than the rest. That wasnt thunder, former Yankees player and coach Lee Mazzilli said of the biblical thunderclaps that preceded the downpour. That was George. The Yankees 1996 championship team was being honored the next day, but for Rodriguezs night, only Mariano Rivera joined him on the field. Former teammates Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter were not present. Neither was his old manager, Joe Torre. Thats called a message pitch.Point the blame at Rodriguez, who admitted using PEDs, but no amount of reveling in his inglorious end can undo the enormous collaborative effort that has created baseballs current dystopia. Rodriguez, along with Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire, is part of the Mount Rushmore of discredited legends that represents the true legacy of the steroid era: It isnt that they arent in Cooperstown. Its that nobody cares.The all-time home run list was once led by the most recognizable foursome in sports -- Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson. That leaderboard stood for nearly 30 years, until Bonds, who hit his 500th and 600th home runs just one season apart, passed Robinson in 2002. Sammy Sosa hit 60 home runs three times and won the home run title in exactly none of those years. While baseball took the money and laughed at warnings that it was undermining itself, the consequences would be felt later, with Rodriguez amassing 3,000 hits, 2,000 runs and 2,000 RBIs -- something only Aaron had done -- but leaving the game utterly uncelebrated, inside baseball and especially out.The Rodriguez epitaph will be a one-sided story about the phenom who was part of the top millionth percentile of talent and blew it all. Yet Alex Rodriguez will in the end be no different from the industry in which he performed for the past two decades, a game that has lost its way, seemingly intent on undermining all that made it special.The game, like A-Rod, took the money (it is now close to a $10?billion industry), ignored the spread of steroids and lost out on the good stuff. Its records are now as worthless as those in the league it is so envious of, the NFL. It decides which team will host the most important games of the World Series based on an exhibition game. It plays its championship in the worst weather because its leaders refuse to compromise on money and adjust the schedule. It plays at least one game every day between teams that play under two sets of rules. And because baseball cannot decide whether it wants to be truly modern, the games leadership allows it to stand weakly in the middle, playing a full season of baseball, simultaneously rewarding and penalizing teams for not coming in first place by staging a one-game playoff, as if the baseball season were the NCAA tournament.Baseball wants the world to be proud of its drug-testing program. Meanwhile, it deals with an All-Star team of steroid-tainted players who thus far need a ticket to enter the Hall of Fame -- Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi, Manny Ramirez and most certainly Rodriguez -- by disciplining virtually none of them and hiring nearly all -- laying the weight of accountability on the Baseball Writers Association of America. If not knowing himself was the self-destructive fatal flaw of Alex Rodriguez, it makes perfect sense that he felt so much at home playing major league baseball. Zapatillas Puma Baratas . Numbers Game looks into the Canadiens securing the services of Thomas Vanek in a trade with the New York Islanders. The Canadiens Get: LW Thomas Vanek and a conditional fifth-round pick. Puma Baratas España .Y. - General manager Billy King says the Brooklyn Nets are looking to add a big man and confirmed the team worked out centre Jason Collins, who would become the first openly gay active NBA player if signed. http://www.pumabaratas.es/ .com) - The Montreal Canadiens will try to halt their longest losing streak of the season when they host the struggling New York Islanders in tonights clash at the Bell Centre. Venta Zapatillas Puma Baratas . LOUIS -- The New Orleans Saints looked like a team playing out the string. Zapatillas Puma Baratas España . "We have always prided ourselves on the way we play defence. Having two big pieces back is going to be a key for us moving forward for years to come," said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- Lorenzo Long rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown, Lennox McAfee returned a kickoff 100 yards and Wofford held off Chattanooga 36-28 on Saturday.After a Terriers field goal with 2:02 left, the Mocs drove to the Wofford 29 before Tyler Vaughn had a game-ending sack.McAfees return tied the game at 7 and the Terriers (7-3, 5-2 Southern) led 26-21 at the half.Longs 1-yard TD run in the third quarter made it 33-21 but the Mocs (8-2, 6-2) closed within five on Alejandro Bennifields fourth touchdown pass..dddddddddddd.Bennifields 5-yarder to Richardre Bagley opened the scoring and the duos 8-yarder with 10 seconds left in the second made it 26-21. However, his second interception that Jireh Wilson returned 10 yards to the Chattanooga 5 led to Longs touchdown.Chattanooga had hoped to tie for the league title but The Citadel clinched the FCS playoff berth with a win over VMI earlier in the day. ' ' '