There, I said it. I've wanted to believe him when he said he was clean and I've eaten up the plausible denials just like the rest of the Cardinal Nation. We all wanted to remember him for that great summer in 1998 instead of turning him into a Bonds-type character. Some people are still going to turn a blind eye to the black eye and that's their right.
Like it or not, this is going to be a bigger definition of his legacy now than any fading memory of 62.
There are a lot of things I don't agree with--Congress dragging him before a bunch of grandstanders looking to smear him (and others), the divisive free passes to a couple witnesses making everyone else appear guilty, wasting time on what may or may not have happened several years ago...
And let me just say that McGwire is NOT automatically guilty. When it comes down to it he answered the way any of us probably would have in the same situation. His attorneys gave him great advice. Too bad they didn't seem to consider any marketing issues.
Someone in his camp had to be reeling when everyone else flatly denied ever using steroids. If the rest of the witnesses respond the same way he did, no big deal. I find it hard to believe though, in none of that ridiculously long hearing, that he couldn't see how poorly his stand would reflect on him in the court of public opinion.
And the court of public opinion is all the whole charade is about. The media coverage is going to keep forcing this down our throats for a long time, and the public will take notice. Those who continue to deny his involvement in steroid use are going to be laughed off by everyone who now thinks he's in the same league as Oliver North (if you're in a blue state) or Bill Clinton (for those in red states) with his performance before Congress.
It's not going away. He'll be hounded for years now by anyone who thinks they can get him to admit using. It may cost him quite a few votes on Hall of Fame ballots. People with nothing better to do are going to blow up every internet message board they can find for weeks opining on what it all means. In the end it's going to turn him into an untrustable cheater in a lot of people's minds.
Don't get me wrong, I wish the best for the guy. His charity work and compassion for children are a fantastic example for all of us. He gave us all some great memories and helped bring a lot of people back to the game. He seems to genuinely want to prevent any steroid use by children. I really hope he can find a way to put this all behind him, but I just don't see that happening any time soon.
There are certainly others with a much greater degree of culpability in the whole fiasco and I'm quite sure the professional windbags on Capitol Hill are going to go after them too. I know, I know, a few of them genuinely have concerns other than being on TV. In the end awareness has been raised and if one kid decides to quit or not to start it was worthwhile. Unless of course it's your job to sell McGwire merchandise.
I'm just as conflicted as anyone else in Cardinal Nation about the whole mess, but I can't see telling people that he's utterly faultless anymore. The analytical side of my brain will make me say that technically it's still just speculation while the speculative side howls bloody murder. In the end, I imagine I'll do exactly what he did when someone asks me what I think:
I just won't say anything.