During the summer of 1998 Mark McGwire achieved Michael Jordon like stardom. In his historic chase towards Roger Maris’ single season homerun record, Mark captured the country’s attention and fascination. Bearing down on homeplate and almost disproportionately larger than anyone else playing the game at the time, McGwire hit number 62.
Author’s note: Watching his slap shot 62nd homerun was indeed historic at the time. But looking at the highlights now that ball was a warning track flyball out. Corbin Bernsen took better hacks at the balls in Major League than McGwire did at that ball and yet it someone found the juice to leave the park? Just thought it was worth mentioning.
No one was more noteworthy that summer than Mark McGwire. He was credited with rejuvenating the game. His stock could not have risen any higher.
Fast forward to 2005. Mark is sitting in Congress along side of Jose Canseco, Rafael Palmeiro, and Sammy Sosa(it should be worth noting Sammy inexplicably was unable to speak English on that day and brought his own interpreter). Mark’s, “I’m not here to talk about the past” testimony made Miss Teen South Carolina’s performance seem like JFK’s inauguration speech. His dependency on our Constitution’s 5th Amendment only eroded any vague transparent skin of innocence he had left. Afterwards Mark did his best David Copperfield disappearing act and was gone. We haven’t seen hide nor orange hair of him since that day. Does anyone feel sorry for him?
Now being placed under an electron microscope of scrutiny were all of the accomplishments achieved by him in his 16 seasons in major league baseball. What ‘This Week in Baseball’ and SportCenter and People magazine all reported as a rock solid work ethic and a balanced diet starting with his Wheaties contributing to his success quickly vanished. When we first learned about his Androstenedione use it was explained away as being apart of a daily dosage of vitamins so Mark’s bones would be nice and strong. Who were we to argue? It’s Mark McGwire. That guy broke a 37 year old record. We all wondered, “Where can I get some ‘Andro’?”.
Four years have passed and now the media and public have a much different view of Mark McGwire and his Androstenedione use. What was once seen as an athlete being an athlete is now viewed in much more nefarious terms. Now we see Mark making a pit stop between the grocery store(for the Wheaties) and GNC(for the ‘Andro’) to the Black Market for his prescribed dosage of human growth hormone. Does anyone feel sorry for him now?
In a book being shopped around to potential publishers, Mark’s brother, of all persons, Jay writes of his brother’s dependence on steroids and performance enhancers. Trying to lessen the blow of the bus tires running over Mark’s head as Jay McGwire throws him under that bus, Jay says Mark only did it to recover faster from injury. Never did Mark use maliciously. In fact Mark had to have a girlfriend inject him the first few times(Quickly, I have to mention this, maybe this is irony at it’s best or just pure coincidence, but Mark is now married to a pharmaceutical rep. Who needs fiction when you have real life?)
If McGwire had used steroids the way people like Jose Canseco and his brother Jay have accused him of, then Mark was on the Ivan Drago strength training program. It must have made him feel very good. Adulation, money, fame, it’s all very addictive. Not to mention the addiction to chemically enhancing your physique. While I don’t blame him for being drawn to the dark side(it would be difficult to believe I would not have done the same put in his shoes and bulbous baseball hat).
He made his Faustian bargain with a hypodermic needle. Surely he knew there were to be some side effects? Waking up with a ‘C’ cup? Mood swings to make Joan Crawford seem well adjusted? How about finding a cancerous tumor the size of a grapefruit on your liver? Maybe even more than all of those, the one side effect McGwire forgot about as he was bashing his way into record books, his image.
Where a once great man stood. A role model. A respected athlete. A future Hall of Fame player. Now Mark McGwire has retreated away from the sport, the media, and the fans. He has been abolished in a self imposed exile. Reaps no rewards from all the years of service given to baseball. This is how we view a man that only 10 years ago had our entire nation in his glove. This is the side effect of steroids and HGH that may hurt more than looking at your Kenny Rogers man breasts in the mirror every morning.
Mark McGwire found himself losing votes for Hall of Fame induction consideration. He is currently hovering around 20% of the vote(needed is in the neighborhood of about 75%) with no end in sight to his plummet. He holds 8th place all time for slugging percentage and homeruns and despite his career numbers purists and crazy sportswriters have flexed their muscles to keep an alleged steroid user out of the Hall of Fame. He remains in his anonymity. He is shunned by most in the sport he loved. This is Mark’s side effect to his (alleged) addiction.
We should feel sorry for Mark McGwire but not as a baseball player who allegedly cheated his way to fame and fortune and the record books. We should feel sorry for Mark McGwire for what he truly is…an addict. Addicted to all that comes with celebrity and addicted to whatever it is that got him that celebrity. It should be no surprise to anyone that Mark McGwire used steroids. He needed his high so he did what any addict would do, he fed his addiction. In doing so hallowed records fell and a former Bash Brother got Bash’ed’.
- Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for, I have grown not only gray, but almost blind in the service of my country (and bald...and cranky...and out of shape...in the service of being a parent) - George Washington
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