I want to take the opportunity to say these words that, I believe, few in our society will ever utter.
Mark McGwire—I'm sorry.
I'm sorry that I and people like me have turned the game of baseball into something that it should never have been—a kind of sacred national ritual played by gods, or at least men slightly better than mortal.
Men we hold to a higher standard than we hold ourselves—men whom we somehow revere because they could use a stick to hit a ball over a fence.
Men who, when they try to gain a competitive advantage, get vilified like a well-known preacher caught in some kind of scandal.
It seems to me that if Billy Graham were to apologize for some scandal or covered-up indiscretion that happened perhaps 30 years ago, people would be quicker to forgive him than they have been to erase your supposed debt to society.
And your great sin? You cheated. Not sugar-coating it. That's what it was.
You used unethical means to gain an unfair advantage over other people—granted, many of those against whom you were competing were also cheating to the same, possibly greater, extent.
Still, you did something wrong, and gained an advantage from it.
Yes, cheating is what it was.
But really, that's ALL it was.
And no other human being who has EVER cheated at ANYTHING has the right to look down upon you.
To those who refuse to forgive you for your cheating, I must ask a few questions.
Did you ever steal a few extra hundred dollars playing monopoly, when your properties were not yielding good income? Playing a game of spades, did you ever sneak a glance at the hand of the guy sitting next to you, and play off the knowledge that he had the ace?
"C'mon!" They say. "Those were just games."
That's right. Games. Competitions. Something with a winner and a loser. If we have ever given ourselves just that little bit of competitive advantage through unfair means, we are just as human as you.
How 'bout this one?
Has any one of us ever fudged on a time card? So yeah, we spent that extra fifteen minutes at lunch because an old friend was in town, and it was Friday, and we had to get home so we couldn't make up that extra 1/4 hour.
"It's okay," we may have said, telling ourselves we'd make it up next week...which, of course never happened.
Cheating. Fudging our taxes? Cheating.
We're all cheaters, in some way or another. If we tell ourselves we've never cheated at anything, we're liars. At least you, Mr. McGwire, came clean.
Sir, you may never now join the pantheon of gods enshrined in that hallowed hall in Cooperstown. You may never be revered as a great man who defied considerable odds to do something great. You may never be immortalized in gold, bronze, or even cement.
You may never be worshiped, but perhaps the vast American public could do with one fewer idol.
You are a man. Nothing more, nothing less.
And we are hypocrites.
We placed our sportsmen among our idols, where no mere man should stand in the first place.
We had an idea of what you were supposed to be, and you failed our expectations.
Mr. McGwire, I'm sorry that I, for one, put those expectations on you. I'm sorry that I ascribed some greatness to a physical sport that should be nothing more than a fun pastime to watch and play.
When baseball became somewhat of a national religion, the men had to become gods. And every single one has failed.
Babe Ruth has no more merit as a human being than you do. Neither does Roger Maris. Neither does Hank Aaron. Neither do Willie Stargell, Sandy Koufax, or Albert Pujols.
Sit down with any of them and, in light of your confession, any one of them would likely be more than willing to admit his own sins.
It's just that yours violated our national religion. You're a fallen god, who's found himself mortal again.
If I were you, Mr. McGwire, I'd be rather thankful for that fact.