As you might expect, I don’t see a lot of point in adding my analysis of the Mark McGwire steroid confession. Everybody who might conceivably be heard from either has been or will be soon enough, all the way from Bobby Knight to the commissioner himself and points in between.
I am, however, interested in the broader questions raised by the “news,” which of course isn’t really news at all. It’s just official now.
One of the FBI agents, now retired, who was involved in a 1989-93 steroid probe did provide an interesting angle in noting that McGwire’s usage was discovered at that time, and that information was subsequently passed along to Major League Baseball.
Like the admission itself, that’s not particularly surprising, but it is worthy of note to remind yourself that when baseball was seemingly resurrecting itself in that bizarrely glorious 1998 season, MLB officials knew – or at the very least should have known – that their historic home run blizzard was artificially enhanced.
I know all the arguments about how MLB was pushing for testing and the players union was resisting, but none of that alters the reality that after shooting itself in the foot with a disastrous truncated season and canceled World Series in 1994, the game was revived on an illusion. And the checks were cashed. Lots of them.
But to me, the steroid-enhanced 800-pound elephant in the room is the likely reality that players themselves probably wouldn’t give a hoot about using such things except that we – fans, media, Congress and even an occasional President – frantically insist that they must.
Without debating the nuance of whether somebody started using to assist a return from an injury or merely to add muscle and thus maybe some long-ball ooomph to his resume, I can’t shake the suspicion that athletes making millions of dollars would seek any remote edge available to keep the paychecks rolling in.
Call me cynical, but I think the primary reason you hear the right things from players about this topic is because the pressures of political correctness force them to be outraged, or at least to give that impression. I think the outrage is as phony as the home run totals from (insert your favored span of years here).
And before anyone suggests I am minimizing the impact of “cheating,” I would say instead that we ought to be truly vigilant about how “cheating” is defined in a professional sport where so many billions of dollars are at stake.
To do any less would just be incredibly naive, and we already know where that got us (think Summer of ’98).
(McGwire/Sosa artwork courtesy of www.goodsportsart.com)