Well, by now, we know what news Mark McGwire admitted he had used steroids in the past. The admission was tearful, with his voice cracking, and as far as I could tell, pretty sincere. It was the admission he withheld in his testimony at Congress’ shameful dog and pony show on steroids in 2005. What has been fascinating about the story has been the cacaphony of self righteous, mean spirited, and frankly, sensationalistic reporting about him and the whole so-called “steroid era” in baseball. Writers have used it as reason to make up their own rules about the Hall of Fame, to grandstand about cheaters and braying about how the game is struggling (since there is SO MUCH evidence of that), and to score some points opening up a newscast as the repugnant Brian Williams repugnantly did on NBC last night. (glad his priorities are straight)
The reporting from the media shows some of the dereliction that has invaded national mainstream press work across the board, whether it be being court stenographers for the White House or reporting on a book comprised almost entirely of hearsay. Writers like Buster Olney and Tom Verducci have made a cottage industry out of reporting on steroids, let alone TJ Quinn. Now I am not saying steroids are good – indeed they are illegal, and McGwire broke the law. But focusing entirely on the “cheating” aspect, the media has taken the effect on homeruns entirely as an article of faith. They saw the homeruns, it must have been causal. They have had more fun with catching steroid users than they have had with actually covering baseball. Indeed look at the reaction on the sports-sphere to his confession, whether it be Olney, Verducci, Killion, Stark. Indeed, consider the language in Ann Killion’s piece:
McGwire never got the memo that the American public understands steroids. That we’ve been beat over the head with facts and evidence for the past seven years. That we know what they do.
Make you stronger. Hit a ball farther. Pad your statistics.
What McGwire said on Monday in his carefully orchestrated, weepy coast-to-coast confessional sounds like something he scripted back in 2001 when he retired. An excuse that the public might have swallowed a decade ago. But not now.
It’s a little stunning that after all these years of waiting, after all these years he had to prepare for this moment that McGwire — and his chief apologist,Tony La Russa, — botched the admission.
Oh, the firebreathing, and dishonesty. Could McGwire have been more forthcoming? Maybe. But honestly, the media wants blood – tears aren’t enough. The media seem to just want to pillory him regardless. How much time has actually been spent on steroids themselves in the context of his accomplishments, aside from the basic non sequitur “steroids created McGwire”? You would think that the evidence of the effect of steroids in baseball is incontrovertible, but clearly, it is not. Where is that honest discussion in the context of the Hall of Fame, for instance? Is this era really any less shameful, than oh I don’t know, the world before integration? McGwire is no hero – but the coverage of steroids in baseball is exponentially more repugnant.