Mark McGwire: The Prodigal Son

Tim FitzgeraldContributor IFebruary 15, 2010

26 Feb 2001: Mark McGwire #25 of the St. Louis Cardinals poses for a studio portrait during Spring Training at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida. According to reports January 11, 2010, McGwire has admitted to steroid use during while playing Major League baseball and when he broke the home run record.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

There's nothing wrong with forgiving Mark McGwire and moving on.

Many media members and former players climbed on their moral high horses to condemn Mark McGwire after his admission of taking steroids. 

I figure I might as well offer my own morality-based retort of why Cardinal Nations is willing to forgive him, and move on to the 2010 season. 

Regardless of your faith, as I definitely want to be all-inclusive here, there's a parable in the Gospel of Luke that is applicable to the Mark McGwire situation. 

Even if you don't believe that Jesus was a deity, which is fine, there's still some good life lessons according to the Gospel authors that the man, Jesus of Nazareth, was trying to convey.

I lost my religion over 15 years ago.  But in looking at the Gospels simply as books with some life lessons, you can see the parallels.  I'm specifically referring to Luke, Chapter 15, verses 11-24, the Parable of the Prodigal Son. 

There's a similar story in Buddhism in Saddharmapundarika (Lotus) Sutra 4.  If anyone knows of a similar one in Judaism, Islam, Hindu, etc, please mention it in the comments.  It's a story that has been re-told in countless plays, movies and songs. 

The story of the Prodigal Son is also referred to as the Parable of the Lost Son.  Prodigal probably best describes the father's forgiving, overly generous nature rather than the son's wayward behavior.  Either way, it's about forgiveness.

According to Biblical Scholars, the Pharisees were powerful Jewish leaders and referred to as the "interpreters."  Many of them had criticized Jesus for taking in sinners and associating with them.  They're the sports media in relation to McGwire, especially those with a hall of fame vote.  

Jesus told this parable as a response to those accusations.  Jesus and the father of the lost son symbolize Cardinal Nation today, from upper management and Tony LaRussa, to long-time fans. 

The story is about the younger of two sons, demanding his inheritance early and running off, wastefully burning through the money his father had given him. 

Mark McGwire and other players from the steroid era parallel the lost son.  They took a shortcut and rushed to fame, money, numbers, and records without thinking of the consequences.

The son was lost and without his family or his fortune.  McGwire left his baseball family and became reclusive, disconnecting from baseball until he began privately tutoring hitters who sought his instruction.

Eventually the son decided to come back.  He tearfully admitted his mistakes and asked for forgiveness.  The father forgave him and welcomed him back.  In Jesus' parable, the father clothes the lost son, and throws a feast in his honor. 

However, when the eldest son hears of his younger brother's return and his father's celebration, he is very upset.  He is disgusted that his brother wasted his inheritance and lived a sinful life, but is still welcomed back with open arms.  This obviously parallels the reaction of many retired players, including Jack Clark. 

But the father responds, "Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But it was appropriate to celebrate and be glad, for this, your brother, was dead, and is alive again. He was lost, and is found."

I've read several articles, blogs, and comments condemning Cardinal fans for cheering Mark McGwire.  But these are Cardinal fans we're talking about.  Though other markets may tire of hearing what a special group of fans they are, it's real.

While I think it was wrong to boo Jack Clark, it shows how Cardinal fans treat the Redbirds as family.  Family may get upset with one another and show displeasure, whether it be with McGwire or Clark, but they also will love and forgive. 

So as spring training gets under way, don't be surprised if Cards fans continue to cheer McGwire and Tony LaRussa continues to support him. 

If Yankee fans can forgive A-Rod and Dodger fans can forgive Manny—two players who still took steroids after an actual testing program was being put in place—Cardinal fans and management should be allowed to forgive McGwire and move on.

And if McGwire doesn't feel steroids helped him hit home runs, that's fine.  Most athletes who succeed have supreme confidence in their abilities.  We can disagree with him on that, and still forgive him and move on.

Because he didn't say exactly what sport writers wanted we can't forgive him and move on?  Wouldn't that have devalued his admission of using steroids if he'd have used an even more cookie-cutter set of apologies to appease us?  I guess he should have mentioned how "loosey-goosey" baseball was a few times.

And lastly if Hall of Fame Voters want to keep McGwire out because he was a one-dimensional power hitter, or feel his numbers are exaggerated due to his steroid use, that's fine.

But spare us the moral superiority, and be careful up there on that high horse.  It's long way down from the top.  Just ask Mark McGwire, that is if he'll talk to you anymore.