Point of Contention is a new segment where we will weigh in on controversial topics in today’s sports world. As always, we encourage you, our readers, to provide your opinions as well.
I don’t have a say in which ex-players are elected to Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame, but if I did, I would vote Mark McGwire in every single chance I got. Blasphemy, I know. I don’t even really like McGwire, nor am I a fan of any of the teams he played on, but the fact that the media has so blatantly warped our perception on one of the greatest first basemen to ever play the game is a tragedy and speaks to society’s tendency to believe anything they hear on the radio, read in newspapers, or see on TV. Why elect a man who so many have turned against, you ask? Simple: besides giving a wishy-washy testimony about steroids in front of a judge, McGwire never did anything that was explicitly wrong during his playing career. And because of that reason alone, it’s unfair of the people given the task of turning mortal men into immortal legends to stick their noses in the air at one of the game’s greats, simply because it’s the popular choice.
Allow me to elaborate, if you will. In my mind, I’d say there’s about a 99% chance that Mark McGwire used steroids in some form or fashion during his playing career. That said, he never tested positive for steroid use, nor was convicted of using any form of steroids after his playing career was over. But one look at the physical transformation he made from beanpole to goliath during a short period around the late-1980’s to early-1990’s would insinuate that something beyond nature was taking its toll on the Oakland first baseman. The fact that McGwire has opted not to discuss steroid usage over the years doesn’t help his case either, nor does his admitted use of androstenedione (andro), a steroid-like substance that is now banned by most sports leagues, including Major League Baseball (though it wasn’t banned when McGwire was using it). Even under the strictest interpretation of the law, McGwire is guilty of nothing more than possession of a weak moral code, perhaps, for not standing up and admitting any wrongdoing. Beyond that, the man is innocent and should be viewed as such by our holier than thou society.
Secondly, take a look at the players who preceded McGwire in the game of baseball. In books and articles chronicling the game as far back as the 1950’s, former players have openly admitted to using substances which would now be considered steroids. Many of those players are in the Hall of Fame (Mickey Mantle, a known abuser of “greenies”–aka today’s ‘roids–may be the most notable). Many more Hall of Famers, I’m sure, have used steroids and simply not owned up to it. We can overlook the faults of these ex-greats because they played in an era in which media was limited to primetime television news and daily newspapers. Now, however, in an age where information is up-to-the-second and everyone (myself included) has an opinion on everything, we see a man like McGwire, who twenty years earlier would be a lock for the Hall, being scrutinized and torn down by individuals who want only to destroy his reputation and nothing more. He can’t provide them answers, so he becomes the enemy.
Amidst the constituency of the modern era, amongst his peers, McGwire was simply one of the guys when it came to using steroids (that is, if he used steroids…there’s always that doubt). So many players used steroids, that for us to assume the role of judge and jury and accuse these individuals of wrongdoing years after the fact is just wrong. We’re doing nothing more than forming opinions on people who, in reality, we know nothing about.
The way I see it is, if players were a) allowed by the league to use steroids (which they were) b) encouraged to enhance their game by using steroids or any other means necessary (which they were) and c) provided with game-enhancing substances like steroids in order to achieve b), then why the hell not do it? When a female actress gets plastic surgery to prolong her acting career, the gavel does not come hammering down on her. When a golfer gets laser-eye surgery to cure his failing eyesight, we do not call him a cheater for seeking out a competitive advantage over his foes. When football players in our very NFL are convicted of steroid usage and sentenced to a four-game suspension for doing so, we simply turn a blind eye to their transgressions (ahem, Shawne Merriman). But when a baseball player, holiest of the holy, is even suspected of committing the same crime that guys like the Chargers Merriman have been convicted of, we can’t handle it. We break down, we start throwing accusatory haymakers, we tear apart whoever we can get our hands on. It’s a product of the media, it’s a product of our hypocritical society, and unfortunately for guys like Mark McGwire, it’s what will ultimately keep him, and others like him, from being immortalized the way they properly should. It’s a travesty, and it needs to be stopped.