Image: Jeff Balke

Sure, Monday started off crappy—you had to tell your lawyers to sue Major League Baseball for suspending you from the game for the entire season, your alleged regimen of performance-enhancing drugs was published this morning in the New York Times (testosterone lozenges before the game? really?), and the guy who got you those drugs called you a liar, cheat and bully last night on 60 Minutes. But hey, now it’s Monday night—let the brand rebuilding begin!

The important thing is to start small. How small? We’re talking signing-baseballs-in-a-car-dealership-in-the-middle-of-nowhere small, a Mercedes outpost in League City, a bustling metropolis of 88,000 that’s 30 miles southeast of Houston and, more to the point, 1600 miles from New York. Still, it’s not a sure thing. They get television in League City, after all. They read the papers.

Still, there is precedent here. It’s not for nothing that The Daily Beast once named the Houston area the country’s best place to start over. And we’re not just talking about the little losers of the world. When Paula Deen wanted to make her first public appearance after charges of alleged racism reduced her empire to a charred husk, where did she go? A cooking show in Houston. And guess what? They gave her a standing O. What about the cast of Duck Dynasty, also in hot water of late over senile old Phil’s bestiality-equals-homosexuality remarks? Coming soon to a north Houston school benefit near you.

Image: Jeff Balke

Thus Monday night, in which a charity cocktail party for Texas Children’s Hospital was held in the Alex Rodriguez Mercedes-Benz showroom, and gamely attended by the dealership’s namesake and part owner. But it was a mixed crowd, as they say: Men in expensive suits—one in a fedora and chewing on a cigar like a living embodiment of a cartoon fat cat—overly made up women in “designer” clothes and kids in sports gear noshing on sliders and cheese pizza surrounded by luxury automobiles cloaked in black curtains. But that’s okay, because what drew the crowd halfway to Galveston on a school night wasn’t the opportunity to gawk at $100,000 cars. No, they came to pose for photos with the New York Yankee third baseman, or get a baseball signed by him, quite as if nothing had ever happened. Nary a cross word was said, not a single accusatory finger pointed.

In other words, it was surreal. As for the evening itself, you might think the events of the past 24 hours would put a damper on things, or that the place would be swarming with media shoving microphones in Rodriguez’s face. You’d be wrong on both counts.

Rodriguez (on his best behavior, it should be noted) patiently posed with partygoers for over an hour, and then even mingled with the crowd, all of whom relished the chance to exchange cocktail chatter with a disgraced ball player. Did no one in this room see Tony Bosch, Rodriguez’s former close associate, go on national television the previous night and accuse the ball player of threatening him with murder?

One thing’s for sure. If A-Rod saw it, he certainly didn’t let on. He smiled politely, answered questions with an air of seriousness, and spent most of the night with his hands folded in front of him—exactly like a funeral director, we thought. No one, at least for one night, was interested in accusations or explanations, not when there were photos to be taken with a blue-eyed baseball superstar, autographed balls to be had by same, or lukewarm sliders in the offing.

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