Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mark McGwire: Let the 'Real' Healing Begin

Did you see Mark Mcgwire on the MLB Network Monday? I did, and came away from his explanation of his steroids use as a player with mixed emotions. McGwire claims he only used the substances to help him heal from injury and to 'get back on the field'.

In case you’re just arriving back from a five year excursion to Mars, Mcgwire is the guy who crushed 70 home runs during the 1998 season with the St. Louis Cardinals, going bang for bang down the stretch with Sammy Sosa. McGwire shattered Roger Maris’ single season homer record of 61 set it 1961. When former McGwire teammate Jose Canseco authored in his book that McGwire and others shared the passion for steroids in order to get bigger, heal faster, and hit and pitch baseballs better, a firestorm of controversy was ignited. McGwire was among those called before Congress five years ago, but did not admit to using the now banned and illegal substances, and baseball now has a stringent testing policy in place.

But, I’m not here to throw rocks at McGwire. I’m more reflective of myself as an avid baseball fan and a guy who’s followed and covered the game for decades. I’m telling you that I was watching every second of that 1998 season with the enthusiasm of a schoolboy, eyes wide and gate mouthed. Every bomb they hit was all the more amazing. I didn’t know McGwire was juicing, and I didn’t care. All I knew was that he and Sosa, and Giambi, and Bonds were crowd pleasing in a big way. After all, as former pitching great Greg Maddux deadpanned in a commercial ad, ‘Chicks dig the long ball’.

Yes, it was fun to watch and compelling. And, if you are any kind of a big league fan who says he wasn’t rooting right along with me, you’re the type of person who would lie about sticking his own kid in a hot air balloon so he could get a reality television deal. That would be either dishonest or delusional…and perhaps both.

I’m glad McGwire came publically clean. He had to. He is now the batting coach for the Cardinals and knew what kind of music he’d be facing the second spring training opens. So does manager Tony LaRussa and the rest of the Cardinals organization. They don’t want that kind of media circus following them around, but it’s going to happen anyway. The media will crazy glue itself to McGwire, and he’ll be forced to, again and again, explain his actions and publically apologize to those he duped.

Well, let me say this to Mark right now. Maybe I should apologize to YOU. As a fan, maybe I should have guessed something unnatural was going on with you. Maybe I should have turned my eyes away from the screen in 1998. Maybe I, along with the other millions of baseball fans were enabling you to push beyond accepted boundaries. Maybe I should have refused to cover your story as a sportscaster. Perhaps we should not blame Frankenstein’s monster, but rather the fiendish collective mind which created him.

Let’s be honest, McGwire and the rest of the creations out there gave baseball fans just what they wanted during those years. A sideshow act in a carnival which lacked zing. Who wants to see a two ring circus, after all?

So, I wish the guy luck. He’s finally held his nose and is swallowing his medicine. I, for one, forgive him but I know I am not alone. Fact is the peanut gallery is going to be on McGwire like white on rice from now on. Or at least until they can get their hands on Barry Bonds.