Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Big Mac, Big Bill and Big Mistakes

I watched the Bob Costas interview with Mark McGwire, it stirred a feeling in the pit of my stomach, and it’s not the one that most are expecting: the feeling was empathy.

Have you ever done something so incredibly stupid that you can’t admit it, even to yourself and then you when you do own up, you wind paying the price with gut wrenching guilt and shame for a very long time – well, I have.

During the late 1980’s I was an assistant Vice-President at north Dallas bank. I ran with a crowd that was fast and wealthy – I was in way over my head – but I wanted to be part of the group –ultimately I got myself in deep, deep financial trouble. I found myself in a spiral that was out of control. When I was inside that situation I felt that I didn’t know how stop and I was too proud, or maybe too terrified to admit my mistakes, and didn’t see a way out. Things got to the point that I was being served with papers for collection at work and my car was about to be repossessed, I finally had to ask for help. It was my fault, no excuses, it was the lowest point in my life, I was humiliated. Eventually, I got out of debt, but I continue bear a tattoo of disgrace as well as ongoing financial restrictions. I know there are some who may have forgiven me but will never forget – I am still reminded in subtle ways –most often by me.

Did Mark McGwire do the wrong thing by using steroids and not admitting it, especially when questioned by Congress – yes he did. Should he have admitted it sooner, I’m not going to judge him on that – it’s taken me over 20 years to disclose my sin. My problems, like Mark’s were self-created, I was trying to be someone I should not have been, instead of myself. Do I forgive him, yes I do. I’ve been down a similar road, my actions and my agony were not quite as public, but believe me they were just as painful.

Again, it’s not up to me to pass judgment on Mark’s motivation, or his sincerity. As a Catholic I believe in the power of confession, and more importantly the power of forgiveness. If your admission and contrition are sincere – and our heavenly Father is the only one who really knows what is in our heart and soul – then His is the only forgiveness that needs to be sought and His is the only judgment that matters.

Speaking of judgment – I have a few questions for the sanctimonious talking heads at the MLB TV round table that followed the Costas interview:

1. If Mark McGwire had retired in a Yankee uniform would his admission of guilt been swept under the rug the same way these same New-York- based-self-appointed-arbitors of absolutes gave Andy Petitte and Alex Rodriguez a pass when they admitted doing the very same thing that Mark McGwire did?

I don’t recall any 2 hour roundtables with Ken Rosenthal haranguing Andy and ARod for not detailing why, when, and how they used steroids. Or does MLB TV, besides having the usual east-coast bias, not want to upset their most profitable franchise fan base by putting the beloved pin-stripe heroes on the same hot seat for the exact same violations. There were suggestions that something akin to the famous asterisk * be implemented on all of Mark McGwire's (and subsequent players) records due to steroid use. Let me suggest that the same should be done to all the World Series championships won by the Yankees in the 1990’s – since they have a least one admitted user (Pettite) and who knows how many others on those NY teams - their records are just as tainted as McGwire's under those circumstances.

2. Why hasn’t MLB TV had a 3 hour roundtable on how Bud Selig, Donald Fehr, major league owners, the players union and the rest of MLB management stuck their heads in the sand and ignored the PED/steroid issue until Congressional action was threatened. Are they not as guilty as those who used the substances? The sad fact remains: they wouldn’t address the issue – while using PED/steroids may have been morally wrong – it wasn’t illegal under MLB rules at the time.

This should have been a blog entry about big bad Vlad, or how the Mariners pitching staff scares me, or a countdown to Spring Training – but instead it’s all about water under the bridge, over the dam and gone out to sea where it should have been forgotten a long time ago.

If you haven’t figured it out yet – the pundits on MLB TV really got under my skin. Yes, I know they are on their pulpits scolding – but let me once again remind everyone that theirs' are only self-righteous opinions. As in William Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice” these journalistic paragons of smugness are taking delight in extracting their pound of flesh from Mark McGwire.

But, there is a speech, a very famous one, in that very same play by Big Bill Shakespeare that I would remind everyone of, (especially those at MLB TV) that I hope would apply to Mark, myself and anyone feeling in need of a kind thought and forgiveness:

“The quality of mercy is not strain'd.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes.
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown.
His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptered sway;
It is enthroned in the heart of kings;
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice.”

-- Marla Hooch


1 comment:

Some Guy said...

That’s an interesting and admirable take on Mark McGwire’s confession of steroid use. While I’m still disappointed (and, at times, a bit angry) to have learned that one of the events fundamental to my interest in baseball—the 1998 home run race—was a fraud, I think that McGwire’s confession was sincere, and his remorse should be taken at face value.

Still, it seems pretty clear to me that his admission was still a very calculated act. When McGwire had something to lose or nothing to gain, he kept quiet—even (or maybe especially) in front of Congress—but when he had something to gain—the job as the Cardinals’ hitting coach—only then does he decide it’s worth it to come clean. In short, he took performance-enhancing drugs in the first place to further his career, and it looks to me like he’s admitting to taking them for just the same reason—to further his career. And as far as I’m concerned, that takes away quite a few of the points he earned for admitting to his PED use.

I’m curious: do you extend the same forgiveness to Andy Pettitte and Alex Rodriguez for their use? (If not, that’s fine with me, I don’t really like either of them, or the Yankees.) Or is your main problem with the situation that they didn’t get criticized to the same degree that Mark McGwire did?