Integrity Matters
March 23, 2005

Baseball, McGwire strike out with steroids

Question: (E-176)

Dear Jim:

Where is Mark McGwire's integrity? When asked if he had used steroids when hitting so many home runs, his response to a congressional committee was: "I'm not here to talk about my past."


Potential "Hall-of-Famer" Mark McGwire appeared before a special committee of the Congress of the United States and did little to improve his stature as a "stand-up" person exemplifying honesty, fair play or integrity.

We may never know all of the people associated with baseball who encouraged and supported the violation of the rules of fair play. However, the congressional investigation of Major League baseball can teach us a great deal:

Baseball is on trial, but so too is American society.

The phrase "only fools pay retail" suggests that for an increasing number of people, cutting deals is smart business, regardless of who gets hurt. Fans wanted to see more home runs, and baseball's decision-makers made it happen.

Justification sounds like this: "If the 'deal' runs on the ragged edge of integrity, so what!" Performance needed to be enhanced, including baseball and players.

Finding the "edge" encourages the misguided to bend, even break, rules to attract ticket buyers and increase profits, because many embrace the idea that winning - at all costs - is everything.

Congress has found a comfortable "target" to accuse and humiliate.

But does contemporary American society need Congress to regulate performance-enhancing drug use among professional athletes? Should not baseball owners and the athletes who take the field for them (and their fans) be capable of competing fairly with intelligence and judgment? It should be common knowledge that free markets - in this case big-league baseball - must regulate themselves or governments will.

Congress is now evaluating the "junkie" traits of baseball. Junkies exhibit a compulsive habit or obsessive dependency. Baseball chose to provide a bigger-than-life circus performance to satisfy stimuli-seeking fans craving nerve-numbing activities - on the field, on the scoreboard and even through deafening sound systems.

Yes, the excesses of a few appear to have punished the whole of society. The congressional "indictment" of baseball is really about the integrity and the maturity of contemporary culture.

It's time parents turn off the television and talk with their children - before the need for "junkie" stimulation destroys more lives. It is time to listen and teach - with integrity.

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