Tuesday, January 12, 2010

McGwire's Confession

I have to confess that I have a new guilty pleasure. It's the MLBnetwork. Channel 407 around here. I don't watch it all the time, but it's another way to stay in touch with the game between seasons. Sure some of the baseball documentary is a bit like watching the History Channel and catching history-lite, but the commentators generally seem bright, and they have Bob Costas. I don't always agree with him, notably on the topic of whether Edgar Martinez is a Hall of Famer, but he knows and loves the game.

Last night I turned on the television on my den, and there was Costas interviewing Mark McGwire. The A's/Cardinals slugger admitted his steroids use earlier in the day on a wire report and I was shocked to see him on the tube at 4:30 PST. In fact, I missed the first half of the interview, so I was surprised by the analysis I heard later.
What I saw was a man ravaged by emotion. He could barely choke back tears through most of the interview, especially when he shared his feelings as he revealed his confession to his family, his sons, and friend/coach Tony LaRussa. It was difficult not to feel sympathy for him. One surprising revelation came when he discussed his 2005 testimony before Congress. This was memorable for all the things he didn't say. However, according to Mac, at the time he was concerned because Congress had not offered him immunity, and he was afraid that telling the truth might lead to required testimony from friends, family members and teammates. Apparently he was acting on the advice of attorneys, which I thought was interesting-and under the circumstances understandable.

It is clear, however, that McGwire's revelations fell short. Though I missed this in the live broadcast, I did see the re-airing, that McGwire could not or would not connect his use of steroids and his enhanced performance. His belief is that he simply used the drugs to stay healthy. It seems to me that there's a chasm of delusion between McGwire's reality and the impact of steroids on his performance, and the impact of PED's on the game. One need only look at the numbers and view the era from 1995-2003 as an abnormality. While McGwire may tearfully say "I wish I never played in the steroids era," he doesn't demonstrate understanding that he helped create the steroids era.

I am reluctant to blame Mac and only Mac for this. 103 ballplayers tested positive for PED's in 2003, and I would love to know who they are. Who is still playing? Who is coaching? Who will be eligible for the Hall of Fame? Those like A-Rod, Manny, and Pettite who have tested positive, come clean and are still playing the game are a blight. They are a reminder that somehow we have forgotten and are forgiving. At least Mac came clean. We had our beliefs that he was using, of course, but he outted himself, unlike the other cheaters that fessed up only because they were caught.

Monday, January 11, 2010

New Year: Yet More New Resolutions

I don't know why I can't get more done with this blog. I always have new and interesting things to share, whether it's about books, music, movies, work or the Mariners. I'll simply say I'm going to do better.

I received a few books for Christmas. Among them was Thurston Clarke's mini-history The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America. I stayeid up way too late to finish the book last night. Though I've read Evan Thomas' biography of RFK and have collected lots of his political memorabilia, I learned a lot about his campaign through this book.

Though it was clear that Bobby was haunted in his own head and from others by brother John's assassination in 1963, Clarke makes it absolutely clear that RFK was clearly fearful of his own death. Reminded by his family and his close advisors that he was in danger simply by running, Bobby was responded fearfully to loud noises such as firecrackers, or cars backfiring, frequently covering his eyes with his hands.

On the other hand, Kennedy ran a reckless campaign that put him constant contact with crowds, and promising America a Kennedy presidency that would seriously challenge the existing power structure. He promised attention to the poor, elevating the status of minorities and increased taxes for the comfortable.

The book gives a glimpse inside the Democratic primaries of 1968, painting a none-too-flattering picture of all the candidates, including Kennedy. It's well done, of readable length, and very accessible.