What we read after knocking out Manny Pacquiao…
What we read while everyone misremembered Mary Shelley’s book…
“What’s the fascination with this story?” The question was asked to no one in particular, just the whole room, really. It wasn’t asked in any pointed way, but just out of sincere curiosity. “It’s about football, right?”
I got the sense that most of the people in the room were not big sports fans. Of course, it wasn’t just about football. It was about football at Penn State, which was, as someone else in the room tried to explain, a well-respected institution, known for its “Grand Experiment” of emphasizing a higher ethical standard.
“Like the Catholic church?” he deadpanned, to general laughter.
“But wait,” someone else said, “isn’t Penn State like a huge party school?” It can’t really be about moral hypocrisy, or high standards, or even child abuse. We brush away stories about child abuse all the time. Really, it must be about football.
I didn’t say anything, because I wasn’t sure what exactly I disagreed with. Penn State was a party school; we had seen this all before with the Catholic Church; even the culture of cover-ups at athletic departments was old news.
But at least one thing seemed wrong to me: It’s not about football. Continue reading
What we read while Reagan’s ghost cleaned up the mess at UC-Davis…
Mark McGwire picked a good week to publicly admit using steroids. Between the Conan/Leno stuff, the NFL playoffs, and Simon Cowell leaving American Idol, one of baseball’s most-anticipated steroid confessions almost got swept under the carpet. Almost.
The reaction to McGwire’s admission has been surprisingly negative. I may not be the best judge of reactions to steroids, but I would have thought an unprovoked, damningly complete (since he admitted using during his record-breaking 1998 season), and heartfelt apology from someone as once-beloved as Mark McGwire would have been greeted with something more akin to a sigh of relief. After all, this revelation is not exactly stunning. At least the issue is finally out in the open.
Instead, people have picked the apology apart. The main problem with it, apparently, is McGwire’s insistence that steroids were not what made him a great hitter. This is, admittedly, pretty laughable. What is McGwire’s explanation for how he was able to hit home runs at a rate higher than anyone who has ever played the game? Well, apparently God gave him magical powers: “I truly believe I was given the gifts from the Man Upstairs of being a home run hitter, ever since…birth.” He goes on to talk about how he’s been a home run hitter at every level of play, since before he took steroids: “My first at-bat in Little League was a home run…They still talk about the home runs I hit in high school.”
This is, of course, absurd. Nobody gives a shit about McGwire’s Little League career. McGwire was not a surefire HOFer because of the home runs he hit in high school. And the fact that he hit 49 home runs as a rookie—while impressive—wasn’t enough to make some consider him the best right-handed hitter of all-time. What made Mark McGwire “Mark McGwire” were his feats of strength from 1996-99. And those numbers were undoubtedly a byproduct of the steroids he was taking. Continue reading