Mark McGwire and Sports Apologies

J. Andrew LockwoodContributor IJanuary 24, 2010

WASHINGTON - MARCH 17:  Former St. Louis Cardinal Mark McGwire looks on during testimony Marrch 17, 2005 for a House Committee session that is investigating Major League Baseball efforts to eradicate steroid use  in Washington, DC. Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner Allan 'Bud' Selig will give testimony regarding MLB?s efforts to eradicate steriod usage among its players.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Win McNamee/Getty Images

We’re the forgiving kind of sports fans aren’t we? 

Time and time again we see our favorite sports heroes mess up, take a big fall on the public stage, hide away from the public eye for a while, and then return with an exclusive interview on ABC’s 20/20 or with ESPN’s SportsCenter to save face. 

This time it was Mark McGwire, the former slugger/juicer who kept America on the edge of its seat in 1998 with his historic chase of the single-season home run record along with Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs

It was a teary-eyed affair that I remember clearly.  I was sitting in the living room during that weeknight watching McGwire at bat against the Cubs as he hit that low flying home run (No. 62) that just cleared the left field fence. 

He rounded the bases and the game stopped for a good 15 minutes.  Hugs were exchanged and all was right with the world for a short time. 

McGwire played three more seasons, but then the steroid allegations came as his career came to a close.  And then McGwire disappeared.

Nothing came from McGwire for almost a decade.  Holed up in the private gated community of Shady Canyon in Irvine, California, McGwire played golf and passed the time in the seclusion of his own backyard.  For all practical purposes, America’s baseball hero was never heard from again.

And then McGwire wanted to set things straight.  Or maybe he got bored.  Whatever it was, Mark McGwire, the bash brother that teamed up with Jose Canseco to blast home runs in the 1990s, decided to take the hitting coach position with the Cardinals for the upcoming 2010 season.  With that announcement, McGwire spilled his beans to the media.

He even said the "L" word…a feat that not even former President Bill Clinton could do.  McGwire admitted that he had lied to everyone about his involvement with steroids in his playing career.  It was the hot topic on sports channels and CNN for a good day or two.  Images of a teary-eyed McGwire saying that he was sorry for what he did inundated the media. 

Funny how a few years can soften up the hearts of the American people.  We’re past, or possibly too permeated with the steroids era, and hold the attitude of "Why not accept the apology of the sports hero who lied to us?"

Isn’t an apology what we want after all?

It’s not that our favorite sports heroes lie to us personally, but it’s the fact that we feel as if our memories are betrayed by a Jekyll and Hyde type of character. 

Remember Tiger Woods leaving the golf course right after the round of a tournament?  We thought he was practicing for the next day and the truth was far different.  An apology would go a long way in mellowing the madness the general public has about their betrayed memories.

Alex Rodriquez did it.  Kobe Bryant did it.  Now it was Mark McGwire’s turn.  Tiger will be next, although his "apology press conference" isn’t scheduled yet. 

We’re too passionate about our sports to just see our memories betrayed after tear-jerking moments.  Apologies require humility, an asset that not many professional athletes can muster these days, but that ultimately pays huge dividends in the public eye. 

Let’s hope Tiger was taking notes from the McGwire interviews.