McGwire's Apology — Is 'Treason' Too Strong a Word? | Bleader

McGwire's Apology — Is 'Treason' Too Strong a Word?



The sportswriters of America have been striking blows for decency right and left. Last week they admitted a marginal candidate, Andre Dawson, to baseball’s Hall of Fame because he was a gentleman, while blowing off suspected steroid user Mark McGwire and teaching Roberto Alomar one of life’s hard lessons — which is that no one who spits at an umpire belongs in the Hall on his first try.

This week McGwire came clean. Back in the 90s he did take steroids — in low doses, mind you, and only to repair a ravaged body, but he took them a lot. He took them in 1998, when he hit 70 home runs. He wishes he hadn’t.

There was only one proper response to this sorry admission — contempt. It has rained down. I cite David Haugh of the Tribune because he has a special gift for lecturing to moral inferiors. “There was no mention in McGwire's sterile statement,” wrote Haugh, “of the millions of kids he let down with his actions, the hundreds of teammates he betrayed with his words, the responsibility of being a role model he shirked.”

Chicago Now blogger Mike Nadel framed the matter even more incisively. “Can you honestly say you wouldn't have taken steroids to save your career knowing that a huge percentage of your peers were taking them?” Nadel wondered. “I'd love to be so noble, but I can't sit here today and say I absolutely wouldn't have juiced in the exact same scenario. No, this tsk-tsking is about the bald-face lies. And the denials. And the silence. And the message he was sending kids. And the way he let down all those who blindly supported him because, well, because a class act like Mark McGwire wouldn't lie about such a thing, right..? McGwire made dupes of Tony La Russa, his teammates, millions of fans in St. Louis and beyond, Bud Selig, fawning media types — everybody who stuck up so vociferously for McGwire despite a mountain of evidence against him.”

Yes, millions of decent people woke up heartsick Tuesday because McGwire came clean and apologized the day before. Will it be remembered as the apology that shattered America? A great man once wrote, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” That has not been my personal experience with love, but perhaps what he actually had in mind was patriotism. If Mark McGwire loved his country he would have kept his mouth shut and spared us this ordeal.

If ever a man owed us an apology for apologizing, it’s Mark McGwire. But I’m sure we have years to wait for that.