Single page view By Bill Simmons
Page 2

Editor's note: This article appears in the May 9th issue of ESPN The Magazine.

Mark McGwire
"I swear to tell ... absolutely nothing."

When news leaked that baseball was battling a steroids problem, I hopped in my car and cruised aimlessly around Southern California, struggling to see the road through moistened eyes, wondering how I could have let myself be so blindsided. You mean Jason Giambi didn't grow that second jaw and Mark McGwire didn't put on those 25 pounds of muscle naturally? Could Barry Bonds actually have been cheating when he entered a second prime in his late 30s? Maybe I drove to search for answers. Maybe I drove to find my lost innocence. Maybe I drove to remember why I loved baseball in the first place.

Or maybe I just made all that up.

Unlike most of the idiots who have columns, I'm the idiot who is delighted by the current steroids crisis. I can't even tell you what part I've liked best. Giambi apologizing profusely for something he wouldn't reveal? Bonds claiming he was deceived into using a steroid cream? McGwire clamming up during the congressional hearing like Frankie Five Angels? Viagra spokesman Rafael Palmeiro pooh-poohing any insinuation that he would use a performance enhancer? The possibility that Jose Canseco – quite possibly the dumbest athlete of my lifetime – was the mastermind who brought down baseball? Or was it that so many members of the media seemed traumatized by the stream of revelations?

Self-righteousness, moral outrage, sweeping self-importance ... this "scandal" has it all. More than one columnist decided this was baseball's version of Watergate, which certainly makes sense: Watergate led to the resignation of a president and sent our country into a profound, decadelong funk. Steroidsgate caused an offensive boom in which every statistical norm has pretty much been thrown out the window. It's a totally valid comparison. One scribe who revisited McGwire's historic season came off like an adult who just found out Santa Claus didn't exist. Seriously, could these people really have not known? Contact hitters suddenly hit 40 homers. Shortstops looked like soccer players one day, the Ultimate Warrior the next. Relievers who'd always thrown in the low 90s topped 98. None of this seemed strange? Honestly, was anyone watching these guys and saying, "Wow, I'd love to hire his personal trainer. He looks fantastic!" During the 1999 All-Star Home Run Derby, I was in Fenway as McGwire (who, like Giambi, was skinnier in college than Screech Powers) launched homers over the Monster. Sure, the baseballs were wound tighter than Jerry Jones's face, but there wasn't a second when I thought the guy was doing what he was doing without help.

Here's the funny thing: I didn't care. I wanted to see Big Mac reach the Mass Pike. I knowingly looked past the signs that night, just like I did throughout the Maris Chase and every other shaky event since the 1994 strike. What did these guys do wrong, anyway? If Giambi can post huge numbers and sucker someone into ponying up a nine-figure contract, why should we stop him? What difference does it make if a pitcher gains velocity from an enhancer or from a dead guy's knee ligament that has been transplanted into his elbow?


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