The next time Alex Rodriguez strikes out with the bases loaded or kicks a routine grounder toward Monument Park, don’t boo him. Thank him. One hundred and sixty-two times a year (more with playoffs), the two-time American League MVP turned overpriced underachiever gives us a golden opportunity to burnish one of our most cherished local beliefs: the idea that this town is a meritocracy. That no matter how gifted you are (say, the game’s consensus best player), how rich you are ($252 million for ten years), or how attractive you are (one of People’s 50 Most Beautiful People), if you don’t do your job, you will not succeed here, least of all win our affection. And if you’re really gifted and really rich and really attractive, and then you fail, God help you. We will destroy you. We will boo you and scrutinize your every facial tic and utterance until you pack your bags and leave town. You could look it up, as Casey Stengel used to say. Or you could just ask Kenny Rogers. But here’s the thing. We’re not simple-minded sadists. We can delight in other people’s pleasure as much as we can revel in their pain. Let’s say A-Rod has a monster season next year. Let’s say he hits, oh, three home runs in a World Series game in October. The applause will be thunderous. The Boss will be all smiles. The chants will shake the stands: A-ROD! A-ROD! A-ROD! We will be cheering for a newly minted local hero. And, of course, not a little bit for ourselves.