Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I Still Say McGwire's Clean

Gonna be a quick one today, as the morning's getting busy. Asterisks, everyone's favorite.

*Mark McGwire officially admitted his use of performance enhancing drugs in an interview with Bob Costas on MLBTV yesterday. Obviously, this surprises no one. It's very easy to vilify him, but there's something important to remember: he just happened to be the dude that hit 70 home runs.

When I say that, I don't mean to excuse his cheating. He took the pills, or injected the juice, or whatever. He made that choice, and now he'll never be in the Hall of Fame, and his legacy is forever tarnished. Deservedly so. But there's this disturbing trend on the part of sports fans to make McGwire the ultimate bad guy, and what I'm saying is, he's just one of hundreds, maybe thousands. He's part of a trend of players who didn't have quite enough character to make the right choice. It just so happens that he's the dude who hit 70 home runs in a legendary year and got called before congress and had a national profile. But he's no more culpable than Morgan Castellano, a dude I just made up who took steroids in the minor leagues but could never hit a curve ball and was a liability in the field and thus couldn't advance beyond Double A.

So take it easy on Big Mark. At the very least, something in his brain compelled him to come clean yesterday. He didn't have to. Cynics will say it's a last-ditch effort to reverse his image and garner more HOF votes (since his first year of eligibility in 2007, he hasn't even come close). But I don't buy it; I think he's resigned himself to missing out on Cooperstown, and the confession came about because he legitimately wanted to lighten his pesonal burden. Does it excuse his PED use? I guess not. He was dumb and young and made a mistake that will never stop costing him. But he's also not a super-villain. He's a product. As pathetic or contrived or blame-shirking as it may have seemed when he wept to Costas and said "I wish I'd never played in the steroids era," you can't deny the hint of truth. He wasn't strong enough to be anything other than a man of the times.

*Pete Carroll is gone from USC. This is a very sad day. I don't doubt that he'll bring his same verve and ability to the Seahawks, but I'm pretty convinced that his approach is more effective with college kids than professionals. I'm ready to be surprised, but losing his personality on the college level is a big blow for fans, and not just Trojan fans. He always seemed like the anti-coach to me; instead of being a rigid, militaristic guy with a buzz cut or a fat slovenly-looking tyrant, he was positive, happy, and loose. Among all college coaches, he's the guy I'd want to play for (if he ever decided to coach pick-up games in Brooklyn parks on Sunday). Really, his individuality is comparable only to a few other D-1 coaches. Bobby Bowden comes to mind, but he's on the way out too. Maybe Chris Petersen from Boise State, though I don't know quite as much about him. But Carroll is somehow meant to be in charge of young men, and I worry that he's not as perfectly suited to the NFL.

Anyway, the overused phrase 'end of an era' definitely applies to this situation. He turned USC into a machine, and along with Urban Meyer became the most successful coach in the game. If you have some free time, this is a great 2007 profile on Carroll from the LA Times. I'll miss his passion, and the Seahawks just became my second-favorite NFL team.

*That's all for today, I think. Oh, but mark my words: Kentucky loses their first game tonight by about 15 on the road at Florida. And you thought I was done with predictions! And speaking of college bball, I think a live blog is in order for Wednesday night...Duke-BC at 7, and UNC-Clemson at 9...time to get real.

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