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.

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