In the ten years Brian Williams has anchored the NBC Nightly News, he has never once launched a broadcast by lambasting a public figure. Henry Paulson after the economic collapse? George W. Bush after Katrina? Dick Cheney after everything? All were spared the personal disdain of "America’s most trusted newsman." Until yesterday. Williams began his broadcast by going after true evil: Mark McGwire. As Williams said,
Good evening. Because this is a family broadcast, we probably can’t say what we’d like to about the news today that Mark McGwire–the home run hitter, the family favorite from the St. Louis Cardinals–stopped lying today and admitted that he did it while on steroids…..He’s been unable to get into the Hall of Fame and, apparently–even for him–the shame here was too much.
Yes, cue the vultures, for retired slugger Mark McGwire has finally admitted the obvious and told the world he used steroids and other performance enhancers throughout his playing career. He clears his conscience a half-decade after a disastrous appearance in front of Congress, simulcast on C-SPAN and ESPN, where he auto-repeated "I’m not here to talk about the past" to his inquisitors. Monday’s admission today, in advance of starting work as the new hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals, is a shocker right up there with "Sarah Palin finds work at Fox News." His teary audio confession also further cements McGwire’s reputation as the Hamlet of the Steroid Era: tortured, indecisive, self-pitying, and in constant mourning about his own frailties.
For anyone who hoped that McGwire’s confession could spark an opportunity to have an honest discussion about how we understand that juiced period in baseball history, from roughly 1992-2006, these hopes were quickly liquidated. Now is the time of the Sunday morning hangover and everyone is a born again zealot, personified by the harrumphing visage of Brian Williams. The media, so happy to cheerlead the home run barrage during the 1990s, now want an apology parade of humbled players swimming in tears and begging for mercy.
Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN penned a piece called, Line of Truth Starts Behind McGwire. He wrote,
"Bonds, Sosa and Clemens owe the game a similar apology. By finally taking the truth plunge, McGwire gives them, and other players, the perfect opportunity to make amends."
Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports went even further. In a column artfully titled McGwire’s Feckless Admission Is Too Late, Brown writes:
We’ve become so comfortable blaming Bud Selig and Don Fehr, we forget the real villains in this. They’re McGwire, Canseco, A-Rod, Palmeiro, Bonds, every man in the Mitchell Report, every player who put a needle in his body and made the next player choose between that and pumping gas for a living, everyone too cowardly to compete straight up.