When Mark McGwire announced last week that he lied to the grand jury and he had used steroids while playing professional baseball my first thought was "This is news? Didn't we already know this?" I suppose the answer is no, some people actually believed McGwire when he swore he was clean.
Although I can't imagine how that happened.
Shocking, right? No, its not. Who cares. But what is shocking or belittling is that Mark McGwire unsuccessfully tried to fool America, fans and the game of baseball with his watered-down denial of drug use over the years as a player. He sat in a nicely fitted suit, testified under oath and blatantly avoided the questions during a Congressional hearing, stating simply, “I am not here to talk about that, but only about the subject and future,” when asked about his pill-popping and needle injecting tendencies.
I wasn’t fooled. And neither were you. A woman can’t drop 10 dress sizes and hundreds of pounds in months without a little surgical help, can she? (See Star Jones... admittal) and McGwire couldn’t be a mini-hulk in Oakland and slam consistent long-balls and break Roger Maris homerun record of 70 with the Cardinals in 1998, without help, could he? No.
Do we actually believe that someone heals from injuries magically to break home run records?
And if we do believe that, why? Are we naive? Are we stupid? Or is it because we so badly want our heroes to be real?
I really want to believe. I want to believe that Mark McGwire’s performance at the plate was because of his swing and not the performance enhancing drugs he took while playing baseball. I want to believe that back in 1998, when I watched McGwire break Roger Maris’ single-season home run record, it was purely based on talent and not the steroids. I so badly want to believe that he could have done it on his own.
I get that. I would be devastated if one of my sports heroes was a cheater. If I found out that Warren Sapp, John Lynch or Derrick Brooks had taken performance enhancing drugs when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl my heart would be broken.
There are three things about this that really get under my skin.
The first thing is that I have lost all faith in Major League Baseball. Sure, I still enjoy going to games, but it might as well be farm league except the ball parks are nicer. I don't care about the teams. There is very little parity in payrolls, the Yankees win almost everything and people get caught cheating far too often. I hate it that I've lost love for the league.
The second thing is this from Kim "He is being lauded for coming clean, despite lying to everyone for years. And in 'everyone' you can include his wife, his kids, his parents, his manager, his teammates. Everyone." Why does America love guys like this? Mark McGwire is a liar, a cheater and a perjure.
The third, and the thing that upsets me the most, is that as a parent I don't want to keep having to explain to my children that their sports heroes are bad guys.
Oh yeah, they are liars and cheaters (and wife-beaters and drug dealers and they run dog fighting rings and they bring guns to games), but they get to earn millions of dollars a year and enjoy fame because they can run really fast or hit the heck out of a baseball.
I’ll grant that late is better than never but how many more times is this scene going to be repeated? How many times am I going to have to explain this crap to my son Oliver, who is four years old and idolizes baseball players? I suppose I’m fortunate that my son was born after McGwire retired and he has probably never heard the name, but he knows Manny Ramirez and used to say he was “his best guy.” Then came the day I had to explain that Manny broke the rules and had to have a very long “sit down,” just like when he breaks the rules at school. A week later, when he had more questions, I had to explain how Manny took medicine that wasn’t good for his body. The questions didn’t stop for more about a month. It was easily my greatest challenge as a parent, and we’ve already been through the death of a beloved family pet.
That is a terrible example to set, and I am sick and tired of having to explain it to my kids.
I would imagine it sucked for Mark McGwire when he had to tell his kids he was cheating too.
* * *
More on Mark McGwire and steroids:
More from entertainment