Soap Box: McGwire’s Shame

Shelby Dixon

This week, Mark McGwire thrust himself back into the public spotlight, bringing back memories from the glory days. You know, McGwire and Sammy Sosa slugging it out in the summer of 1998, chasing one of the most hallowed records in all of sports, Roger Maris’ single-season home run record. That summer, the public was captivated by the chase between McGwire and Sosa, picking favorites. When McGwire finished that season with a magical 70 homers, he was hailed as the savior of baseball. Now, over a decade later, Major League Baseball has been mired in dark clouds: the BALCO scandal, a congressional investigation, perjury charges for Barry Bonds, and numerous steroid accusations and confirmations of lesser known players and superstars alike. Nobody has been safe.  On Monday January 11, 2010, McGwire dropped a bombshell, albeit one many have seen coming for quite some time. McGwire, perhaps the poster child of the so-called “steroid-era” confessed to widespread usage of steroids, during the majority of his career, including that fantastic summer of ’98.

With his confession, McGwire confirmed what many already believed to be true, that his ballooned numbers and cartoonesque physique had been enhanced by something other than God-given ability. Anabolic steroids, artificial testosterone and human growth hormones had been injected into his body and given McGwire superhuman strength.

“I wish I had never touched steroids,” McGwire said in his confession. “It was foolish and it was a mistake.”

Well Mr. McGwire, we all wish you had never touched steroids. You took our hearts, minds, and imaginations captive that summer. It was magical. As a young boy, I watched you duke it out with Sammy and when homer number 62 scraped that wall in St. Louis, my heart leaped. I was in love with you, you were an idol, and you led me to believe anything was possible. You had accomplished a feat that many had seen as impossible, and made it look oh so easy. I never wanted to believe you had been involved with the steroid scandal, but with so many other big name players going down, Manny, A-Rod, Clemens, I had been skeptical. But upon hearing your confession, I was crushed. You sat there and lied to us, the public, your fans, not once, but numerous times. You sat in front of a congressional hearing and refused to answer questions about your alleged use of performance enhancing drugs. I will never know your intentions for deceiving us all. Maybe it was because you were attempting to keep your reputation intact. Maybe you were too egotistical and arrogant to admit to your mistakes. Maybe you felt you had done nothing wrong. Who knows? What I do know is that you have lost an immense amount of credibility and respect from this baseball fan for sure, and chances are,  tens of thousands more in this country. Taking our emotions and toying with them as you did? What on earth could you have been thinking?

Possibly the most difficult part of this to swallow is your timing. Your confession came less than a week after the Hall of Fame ballots were announced, and yet again you missed the cut. By a lot. Your admitting to steroid use appears to be nothing more than a pity cry, begging voters to forgive you, to forget what you have done to us. You expect them to look past your transgressions and vote you into baseball immortality?  To give you a bust in Cooperstown? How pathetic. You earn a spot in that sacred place on talent and work ethic, not by needles and pills. Your statistics are tainted. How are we supposed to know what you could have accomplished had steroids never entered the picture? How can we induct you into the Hall of Fame when you cheated to accomplish what millions of players failed to achieve because they tried to get there the right way?

If any voter can put your name on their ballot next year, shame on them. But I can forgive them; I can respect their opinions. But in no way can I ever respect you again. Shame on you. Shame on you for cheating. Shame on you for tarnishing the record books. Shame on you for lying to us. But most importantly, shame on you for crushing our hearts and breaking them into a million pieces.