(Stream of consciousness on Mark McGwire…)
Mark McGwire, along with Roger Clemens, were my first two favorite baseball players. (I picked two winners.) I gravitated to McGwire, though. I had posters of McGwire in my bedroom, I had Oakland A’s gear because of him, I had his Starting Lineup figure and collected his baseball cards. When I was a missionary, I tracked his homerun totals in my office. The Red Sox became my team, but Mark McGwire was my favorite baseball player.
The 1998 season was magnificent for me to follow. My favorite player chasing (arguably) the most hallowed record in sports. How transcendant was it? I was at a Husker game in September of 1998, and they announced during the game that McGwire had hit another homerun. The crowd cheered. I was glad I had been a fan of his since his rookie year. He was larger than life. He respected the game and appreciated the fans. He was perfect for baseball.
McGwire’s admission that he took PED’s during his baseball career was one of the more anticlimactic events. My McGwire fandom ended five years ago, right before his abysmal appearance before Congress. I had heard the rumors of his PED use growing louder, but it was a picture I saw of him in late ’04/early ’05. He was at some event, with a date, and his body looked like it had been deflated. In that instant, I just knew he had used PED’s throughout his career. The rumors and whispers were true. I was angry, I was frustrated, and I was sad. One of my childhood heroes was a fraud. The day of his Congressional testimony, I was glad that I’d stopped being a fan of him just weeks earlier.
In the fall of ’98, I was part of a theater company with the missions organization I was on staff with at the time. We went to a church in, I believe, Virginia. (It was either there or North Carolina.) Someone on the team excitedly told me that one of the church pastors had played baseball with Mark McGwire. (Everyone I worked with knew I was a McGwire fan that year.) So, I went up with him, along with everyone else on the team, and we asked him about playing with McGwire. (I need to go through my old journals and get the guy’s name.) He was wearing a championship ring from his Oakland A’s playing days and said how McGwire was a good guy. However, he also added, “After he hit 70 home runs and he said how he was in awe of himself, I thought that wasn’t good to say.” I can’t recall exactly what he said next, but it was along the lines of God not liking the proud and that Mark would be humbled at some point down the road. I always just shrugged off what he said, because McGwire had just hit 70 freakin’ home runs. It was an amazing feat. I didn’t take the quote as being proud, at the time, but just being at a loss of words. (McGwire isn’t the most loquacious person, as his interview with Bob Costas yesterday showed.)
McGwire has been humbled. It started in March of 2005 when he went before Congress and didn’t want to talk about the past. (AKA, admit the truth.) It has continued since then, and it will keep up for the rest of his life. He will hear about his PED use every time he goes to a MLB ballpark as a coach.
I thought his interview with Bob Costats was a joke, but that may be due to me being a fan of his for over 15 years. Over those years he was my favorite player. I supported him, and believed in him being the modern day Babe Ruth. An image he purported as well. Did I want to believe in the myth? Yes, but I was also a kid at the start of his career. What the heck am I going to know about PED’s at that age? I grew up thinking he could hit home runs with the best that ever played.
Why did McGwire confess now? Because he wants to get back into the game, and he’s a coach with the Cardinals now. He, and the Cardinals, would’ve been pestered with questions about PED’s until he confessed. Some of his statements to Costas don’t make sense, and there are a number of them I take issue with, but the most idiotic was that his PED use didn’t help him hit the home runs. Are you kidding me? Are you an idiot, McGwire? Do you think the rest of us are fools? And then, to invoke God with his ability to hit all those home runs…
I’m also at the point of being amused every time I hear someone invoke God as a justification for their situation. “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” I don’t think that passage refers to you and your steroid-related choices you made on your own. God didn’t jam you full of roids. God doesn’t give you more than you can handle when it comes to temptation, Mark. That verse doesn’t apply to you sinning up until the point you can’t handle it anymore.
Sometimes, when people confess their sin/addiction, it takes awhile for them to completely come clean with their sin/addiction. I know that first hand. It takes baby steps sometimes. I do hope that happens for Mark McGwire, that as he steps into the light he’ll embrace more responsibility of his choices. I want the best for him, and hope he can turn this into something good. Some of his words do seem sincere, and despite his irrational logic he seems somewhat broken by what he did. As a former fan of his, though, I can’t help but think he is self-serving, a liar, and in denial about what he did. He is no victim. Shedding a few tears, trying to excuse and justify your PED use, and saying it had no affect on your play is a sham. Perhaps one day he’ll realize that, and admit as much. I’d like to be a fan of that Mark McGwire someday.