When I finally pulled myself off the ground a good three hours after hitting the floor, I grabbed my head and squeezed my temples as if I were shopping for the perfectly ripe melon. Like most people, I like to get my hands on the melon and give it a thorough once over because it’s not just the eating of the fruit I’m concerned with—it is the artistry of nature.
Still, my head was not as ripe as a luscious cantaloupe for the news. Why did I have to hear it on Facebook from Trenni Kusnierek instead of a breathless—yet dashingly composed—Brian Williams with a break-in of the regularly scheduled daytime programming?
If that wasn’t bad enough, Trenni continued her taunts from Twitter.
Why? Why now? No one was sworn in, or being extorted. There was no good reason to break that oh-so sacrosanct code of the clubhouse, which is nearly exactly like the oath the guys in the major motion picture, The Hangover, only on… ahem… steroids.
An admission? What in the name of Pete Rose was going on here?
"I wish I had never touched steroids," Mark McGwire revealed in a press release sent out on Monday afternoon. "It was foolish and it was a mistake. I truly apologize. Looking back, I wish I had never played during the steroid era."
McGwire didn’t stop there, either. Oh no, a baseball player admitting to something as mundane as using performance-enhancing substances is like a politician admitting he did something that might be construed as unethical. It just happens from time to time when a ballplayer is hanging around the clubhouse with his teammates and they are all flexing and snapping towels at one another. Ballplayers have an innate competiveness that a guy pushing pencils in a cubicle can’t fathom.
First it’s a flex here, a towel snap there, followed by a round of batting practice where the guys point and giggle at your warning-track power. Then, the next thing you know you’re in a bathroom stall with Jose Canseco with some needles and a dose of winstrol.
That’s how it always starts.
But McGwire didn’t stop with the admission because that wouldn’t be shocking at all despite his riveting testimony in 2006 before the Congressional House Government Reform Committee. That’s where he shakily claimed that he was not there "to talk about the past." Instead, McGwire outlined the past and gave dates and reasons for his drug use.
"I never knew when, but I always knew this day would come," McGwire wrote. "It’s time for me to talk about the past and to confirm what people have suspected. I used steroids during my playing career and I apologize. I remember trying steroids very briefly in the 1989/1990 off season and then after I was injured in 1993, I used steroids again. I used them on occasion throughout the ‘90s, including during the 1998 season."
The 1998 season, of course, was when McGwire and Sammy Sosa had that homerific lovefest as they assaulted all the standing single-season home run records as well as the good will of the believing American public. They duped everyone, especially the baseball writers who just didn’t whiff at the biggest story in their sport for forever, but didn’t even take the bat off their shoulders. Even when there was a dosage of andro wantonly strewn about his locker with the spent wrist bands, soiled batting gloves and muddy spikes, the scribes (and baseball people) attacked the one writer who wiggled away from the fairy tale to look behind the curtain.
So think how confused the old ballwriters are after Monday’s admission. First they go from organizing the national group hug with the brawny slugger to slapping him with metaphors not even a decade later after the showing before Congress. If your brain hurts, what about those poor, misguided writers?
Or better yet, what about Tony La Russa? Not only was La Russa the manager of McGwire’s teams in Oakland and St. Louis and is set to be his boss as the ex-slugger begins a new gig as the Cardinals’ hitting coach, but also the manager has been the big guy’s staunchest defender. La Russa was so far in McGwire’s corner that even when shown evidence to the contrary, the manager refused to believe that his guy would do anything like steroids.
In other words, unless La Russa was in the bathroom stall with Jose and Mark to see that plunger filled with those sweet, muscle-building chemicals injected into the hind parts in question, then it did not happen.
"I have long felt, and still do, there are certain players who need to publicize the legal way to get strong," La Russa told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in March of 2006. "That’s my biggest complaint. When those players have been asked, they’ve been very defensive or they’ve come out and said ‘Whatever.’ Somebody should explain that you can get big and strong in a legal way. If you’re willing to work hard and be smart about what you ingest, it can be done in a legal way."
Nothing has dissuaded La Russa from believing McGwire was clean.
"That’s the basis of why I felt so strongly about Mark. I saw him do that for years and years and years. That’s why I believe it. I don’t have anything else to add. Nothing has happened since he made that statement to change my mind."
What a plot twist! What must La Russa be thinking now? If you see a dark-haired older gentleman on the deck squeezing his head as if shopping for a cantaloupe, you know why.