Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Say it ain't so, Mark.

Shakespeare taught us the elements of a good tragedy. He knew that nothing sells better than the story of a great man who falls from grace. Depending on your definition of the word great, heroes fall every day. And the current media atmosphere that we have embraced as a culture almost expects it daily. Myself included. But yesterday one of MY heroes fell. One of MY heroes suddenly became human right before my eyes.

I grew up hating baseball. I thought it was dull and boring and silly. Granted, I was a fat kid and whenever I played baseball I was always relegated to left field (left field is a dead zone - the perfect position for overweight, unenthusiastic players).

In 1998, two men saved baseball. Literally. It's hard to fathom, but in 1994 baseball went on strike and quit in the middle of the season. No All-Star game, no playoffs, no World Series. Many people - generations of people - lost faith in their beloved sport. My father included. Baseball was inches from its last breath.

But in 1998 something wonderful happened. I was enlightened by baseball. Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa were surprisingly racing for the most coveted sports record in the history of all sports: the single season home run record. Not since 1961 had anyone come close to breaking this record. And suddenly not just one, but two men were poised to do it.

Suddenly, the nation started paying attention again. I started paying attention. It was a magical season and I have always credited Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa for showing me the beauty and distinction of baseball.

Yesterday Mark McGuire admitted to using steroids in 1998. Granted, we all knew the man was juiced. Sammy, too. And Barry Bonds. But still. I for one did not want to talk about it. Ever. I was perfectly happy going on with my life remembering 1998 fondly as the year I fell in love with baseball. It's kind of like sitting at the Thanksgiving dinner table and not calling your mother out for drinking too many glasses of wine, or asking your dad why he had that affair with his secretary last year.

*I'm not advocating for any sort of drug use, but one could make the argument that without the widespread use of steroids baseball may have gone the way of soccer and arena football in this country. Just sayin'.

Know this: I will continue to celebrate the accomplishment Mark McGuire achieved in 1998 - not that he hit 70 home runs, but that he was able to pull someone like me into the world of baseball. I will always be grateful to him for that.


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Chris said...

I don't get how one can make the argument that without steroids baseball may have disappeared, but then again I don't watch baseball. Don't all other sports not allow use of performance enhancing drugs, or am I naive? You'll have to explain to me.

JC said...

After the strike of '94, fans became disillusioned. Viewership was declining more and more each year because the fans no longer took it seriously. But then all of a sudden giant monster men started hitting the ball like the fans had never seen. At the time, we did not know steroids was the reason for these feats, but the fans came back. It's wrong, yes, but it still put asses in the seats. And in professional sports it's all about $$$