Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Venom and The Cure

Inevitably, some adolescent boy -- say, 13 or 14 years old -- who's been watching baseball since he was young and playing it since he could hold a bat, watched over the past 24 hours as Mark McGwire came out of the closet and admitted he had used performance-enhancing drugs (aka steroids) while he was a professional baseball player.

And in yesterday's admission that surprised no one -- despite all the press coverage thereof -- I'd imagine the aforementioned kid seeing McGwire's confession as hollow, empty and more than 90% bullshit.

For those of us who are human -- and that accounts for everyone that doesn't get paid to model, play a professional sport or attend red-carpet-preceded gala events -- seeing this sort of thing gets mighty old mighty quick.

When Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were tag-teaming the soon-to-fall single-season home run record over the summer of 1998, I think most baseball fans were mesmerized. Both of these guys seemed like good, normal people -- in direct contrast to the later success of Barry Bonds -- and they achieved great things for the game of baseball. I remember seeing McGwire's record-breaking home run clear left field and being almost in awe, akin -- almost -- to seeing the Rangers' Stanley Cup-winning endeavor in Game 7 in 1994.

Unlike that Ranger Cup victory, the McGwire-Sosa achievements of 1998 were a sham.

Years later, in 2005, when Big Mac was called to testify before Congress regarding performance-enhancing drugs, he didn't deny using same while he was a player; he just refused to answer any questions, declining to "discuss the past."

It was clear what his denial signified: he had taken steroids.

Yet he never admitted doing same, until yesterday. What's sad is that we don't know if he admitted same now because he wanted consideration for the Hall of Fame or acceptance regarding his newly-awarded Batting Instructor title with the Cardinals.

Yesterday's admission, for me, didn't really clarify anything or answer any questions I'd had -- I'd long ago realized Big Mac had been cheating when he broke Roger Maris's single-season record -- and what really was disappointing was the fact he claimed steroids didn't help him hit home runs. Of course, that's not true: taking steroids allowed his body to recover from injuries that might have curtailed or ended his career, and allowed his body to bounce back day to day. But why should we quibble or nitpick now that a cheater's come out of the closet?

I was a big fan of Mark's as he made a run towards the record, and despite the fact that he's a cheater and a liar, I really enjoyed seeing he and Sammy Sosa (another would-be juicer) make the run for the record.

I just wish they would have been satisfied with their best, instead of cheating in order to appear to be the best.

And I hope their cheating doesn't inspire legions of kids to copy their actions on the field; for some strange reason, what players do on the field seems to have much more significance than what they say or how they apologize off the field.

Guess we'll know in 15 or so years from now. That is, if we still want to know...

No comments: