I am tired because just before going to bed last night, I ran across a special report from ESPN The Magazine entitled "Who Knew?" Ninety minutes later, through bleary eyes, I was still reading.
A team of ESPN reporters spent six months and held more than 150 interviews as well as examined hundreds of pages of documents in the process of their investigation. The result was pages and pages of vignettes, each with a different angle on the steroids problem in Major League Baseball.
It is a must-read. "Who Knew?"
I am irritated as a result of conditions not unlike what occurs when I am invariably assigned the unwanted task of peeling onions in the kitchen. There are definitely similarities with what is happening around the issue of baseball and steroids. Each time we are presented with it, another layer of the game's shine comes off and with it comes additional unpleasant realities of what lies beneath.
The ESPN work noted above does not break any great new truths. Still, its sheer volume reinforces again and again what all but the most naive have come to accept by now. On one hand, we are tired of the issue, yet, every time it comes upon us, we slow down and gawk, just as when we encounter an automobile accident on the highway. We'd rather not, but presented with the situation, we have to.
By now, the weight of evidence about players' use of illegal and banned performance-enhancing substances has become overwhelming. As a result, the public image of the poster boy of the movement, Jose Canseco, has shifted from that of a snitch and a liar to an irrelevant "So what?" in just a few short months.
In the ESPN report, we read about both the expected, a Ken Caminiti or Jason Giambi, and the unexpected, like Wally Joyner, with equal numbness.
And, of course, the name Cardinals fans both hate to see, yet expect to see, Mark McGwire, appears in what I would characterize as a meaty supporting role.
A convicted dealer named Curtis Wenslaff not only fingered McGwire as a user, but showed ESPN his notes highlighting the special concoction he put together for Big Mac in his Oakland days, "a mix of Winstrol V, testosterone and the veterinary steroid Equipoise."
Could Wenslaff be lying and falsifying documents? Sure, he could. But, for what purpose?
Later in the piece, the story of AP writer Steve Wilstein's discovery of androstenedione in Big Mac's Busch Stadium locker was recounted once again. Looking back, it was like yet another pileup on the freeway that we'd rather not relive.
Tony La Russa predictably reacting in anger, looking for a way to ban Associated Press reporters from the clubhouse. Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz conducting a reenactment of the Wilstein-McGwire scene and accusing Wilstein of going "out of bounds" in the process. A reminder of a difficult situation for all involved that does not wear its age particularly well.
Still, I probably would not have written this had I not continued on to the end of the ESPN report. Its final piece is a video excerpt from March's House Government Reform Committee Hearings. In it, Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland grills McGwire about baseball players as role models for high schoolers.
An obviously nervous Mac tried to take the high ground, pointing out the benevolence of his foundation in dealing with the serious issues of child neglect and abuse. After getting a clarification as to whether the question posed was about the past or present, McGwire delivered a clear mandate as to his foundation's future.
"We have not talked about it, but I am going to redirect about this subject," Mac explained.
The discussion continued.
Cummings: "Are you willing to be a national spokesman against steroids…?"
Mac: "I'd be a great one."
Cummings: "So, that means you would do it."
Mac: "Be a spokesman? Absolutely."
An internet search for "The Mark McGwire Foundation for Children" led me to a 1999 press release by Yahoo. Referenced elsewhere on the net, the URL for the Foundation, mcgwire.kids.yahoo.com, is no longer active. Other attempts to locate the Foundation online to gauge its March "redirection" to steroid education were equally fruitless.
So, at this point, if Mac is doing anything to speak out against steroids, it may be occurring on a parallel path with fellow Southern Californian O.J. Simpson, whose relentless search for his ex-wife's murderer appears to be concentrated on the fairways, bunkers and greens of various golf courses across the Sun Belt.
I am tired and I'm irritated and much as I try, I can't seem to do anything about it.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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