Wednesday, January 13, 2010

It Most Certainly Is Not McMurtry's Middle

Talk about cross-promotion. Half a decade after he did his impersonation of a clam on Muscle Beach in front of Congress, Big Mac chose January 11, 2010 to attempt to sell us all a Whopper. Sadly, much like the emperor of yore, this former home-run king also has no clothes.

Time waits for no one. Do not feel compelled to accept my representations on the subject. Ask Mick and Keef. They wrote a treatise on it for crying out loud. Five years after the train of self-respect left the station with him standing on the platform trying to figure out the transfer fees, Mark McGwire made his "Mea Culpa 2010" Tour. McGwire put out a statement through the Associated Press acknowledging what everyone kinda, sorta suspected for the past decade or decade and a half, which is that he had dabbled in anabolic steroids. "I never knew when, but I always knew this day would come. It's time for me to talk about the past and to confirm what people have suspected. I used steroids during my playing career and I apologize. I remember trying steroids very briefly in the 1989/1990 off season and then after I was injured in 1993, I used steroids again. I used them on occasion throughout the '90s, including during the 1998 season."

Thankfully, McGwire has been imbued with the same advanced degree in physiology that was apparently bestowed upon Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmiero, Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi and every other acknowledged cheat while the rest of us were not paying attention. On Monday he echoed what each of them who has admitted taking steroids (or been caught red-handed in spite of the most fervent denials) has told us, which is that the performance enhancing drugs he consumed had no effect on his performance whatsoever. For a fellow who five years ago had no discernible recollection of the past, on Monday he displayed total recall, "Absolutely. I was given this gift by the man upstairs. My track record as far as hitting home runs, my first at bat in Little League was a home run, they still talk about the home runs in high school, they still talk about the home runs in legion, they still talk about the home runs I hit in college, I led the nation in home runs. They still talk about the home runs I hit in the minor leagues." Apparently, it is not the past he has an aversion to discussing. It is the less than sterling things that pockmark his - as indeed they so do all of us - that he would rather not discuss.

At the risk of toeing an unpopular, minority position here I came away from watching the blubbering redhead on television with Bob Costas Monday night feeling much the same way about him as I had when I woke up Monday morning. He is a fraud. Having spent a lifetime perfecting the ability to lie to the world around him, he has lost the ability to deal with himself squarely and honestly. It is the erosion of that skill that allowed him to narrate the self-delusional fairy tale he told on Monday night.

At least I hope that is what I witnessed in living color on my television. I hope that to be true because if he is not indeed delusional than he is imbued with an arrogance that dwarfs even his gargantuan physique. And then I would be forced to consider that the entirety of the Summer of '98 as the Maris family was dragged around the country from ballpark to ballpark as McGwire and Sammy Sosa waylaid Roger Maris' single-season home run record, McGwire knew what he was doing to them and meant to do every last goddamn bit of it. It would mean that his conversion of the Marises into a sideshow attraction at his traveling freak show was intentional, not accidental. That would - from my vantage point on the world - be unforgivable.

Sadly, given that no notable player of the modern era has been spat upon more publicly or more zealously by baseball than Roger Maris, it would not be surprising. While his legendary asterisk existed in the mind's eye of the public only - and never in the official records - Commissioner of Baseball Ford Frick did decree in 1961 - as Maris was merely threatening Babe Ruth's record that, "Any player who may hit more than 60 home runs during his club's first 154 games would be recognized as having established a new record. However, if the player does not hit more than 60 until after his club has played 154 games, there would have to be some distinctive mark in the record books to show that Babe Ruth's record was set under a 154-game schedule ..." Much ado was made about the fact that Maris "needed" a 162-game season to hit 61 homers whereas the Babe had needed but 154 to hit 60. Until I read it in Barra's article, I must confess that I never knew that it actually took Maris five fewer plate appearances to reach 60 than it had taken Ruth.

McGwire is a fraud. He is banking on the fact that we the people of these United States love nothing more than a three-hanky self-flagellation. The fact that it is the ceremony of the apology we value and the substance of the apology we ignore speaks as much to us as it does to the class of professional apologists we have created. Whether McGwire meant what it said or said what he meant is irrelevant. What is important these days is that McGwire put on his pancake makeup, sat beneath the television lights and cried on cue.

Actually if one steps back and takes a wide-angle view of the world, then one realizes that Big Mac's faux apology is not what is important. And neither is the bullshit that Tony LaRussa and Bud Selig are each shoveling as hard as they can.

They will need those shovels in St. Louis this summer. Something smells pretty ripe. And there is not a Clydesdale around for miles.

-AK

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