This season, wouldn't it be cool if Mark McGwire crushed a hundred? Better yet, five hundred? A thousand?
Wouldn't it be perfect if today, right now, before the season is even crawling, he reached into his locker, took out his bottle of androstenedione, opened the childproof cap, dumped all the pills on the floor of the St. Louis Cardinals' clubhouse in Jupiter, Fla., and crushed every one of them under his cleats?
You talk about heroic. That would be heroic.
I don't think a single dinger McGwire hit last year can be directly traced to andro, the testosterone-producing supplement that he takes before workouts and is banned by the IOC, the NFL and the NCAA. I think it was a raptor's eye, a killer's swing and an XXL heart, not andro, that produced all those homers. But a lot of other people disagree. In fact a lot of kids do. A lot of teenage boys who are getting ready for the high school baseball season are at their nearby vitamin and supplement store right now pooling their snow-shoveling money to buy it.
Some doctors think taking andro is a very dangerous thing. Some doctors think it's a dangerous thing for grown men, much less teenage boys. Anytime you're putting 10 times the normal amount of anything in your body, it doesn't take Marcus Welby to know you're asking for trouble. Right now, Mark McGwire might be America's No. 1 sports hero and its No. 1 health hazard.
Just the normal amount of testosterone has gotten more teenage boys into trouble than fake I.D.'s. Imagine if they all start taking a pill that increases their testosterone level. We know that excess testosterone may eventually stunt growth, slow puberty, lead to sterility and cause liver disease, heart problems, acne, fits of rage, baldness and the development of breasts in men. Is that the effect McGwire wants on American youth baseball? That every kid wear a jock and a C cup?
McGwire once told me, "If they want to put a warning on andro, like cigarettes, then I'm all for it." But a warning label means zilch to a teenage first baseman trying to become the next Big Mac. There are warning labels on the bottoms of skateboards too.
Quitting isn't admitting he was nuked up last year. It doesn't put an asterisk on the 70. It doesn't mean he cheated. He didn't. What he did was 100% legal and within the rules of baseball. But now with Michael Jordan gone, McGwire becomes the king sports role model in the country. Legal he left behind a long time ago. Now he's stuck with right
It's funny about McGwire. He's a wonderful, compassionate man. He's one of the great divorced dads in America. He hardly touches alcohol. He won't smoke. He champions abused kids.
So why does he let so many kids harm themselves just to be like Mac? In the early '90s a study found that 6.6% of male high school seniors had tried an illegal steroid. After a summer when McGwire owned highlight shows, how many kids will now be on what is essentially a legal steroid?