We have seen this all before, but that doesn’t make it any more palatable to digest. We saw it several years ago in San Francisco when the surly sycophants jeered anyone who had the audacity to say something bad about their beloved anti-hero Barry Bonds. We saw it again last summer in Southern California, when giddy and oblivious Dodgers fans treated Manny Ramirez like he was a funky rock star rather than the goofy drug cheat that he really was.
We witnessed the Mannyworld Traveling Circus and Rehab Tour up close and personal, and it was both disturbing and wildly amusing; it was a crazy, mixed-up carnival of the most absurd baseball worshipers you ever did see, every last one of them gathering to profess their unwavering support of a man who had just spent a big chunk of the baseball season on a 50-game suspension.
“We’re fans,” one man told me at the time. “This is what fans do. I hated Barry Bonds. I booed him all the time, too. And here I am cheering for Manny. Crazy, huh?”
“Crazy” just begins to properly describe it.
And now we’re seeing the embarrassing nonsense once again, but this time it’s in St. Louis, where legions of Cardinals loyalists suffering from that same strain of incurable fanaticism greeted Mark McGwire — the face of baseball’s steroid era — with a rousing, standing ovation in his first public appearance here since admitting he used a potent array of performance-enhancing drugs while becoming a celebrated home run king.
On Sunday afternoon in the Hyatt Regency ballroom, 2,500 fans took their turn to join the parade of baseball fans willing to celebrate a confirmed baseball cheat, and they did it with a thunderous roar that nearly brought tears to McGwire’s eyes.
Of course, the story can’t be complete without the cheering masses. Gullible and easily satisfied, all they care about is that they are provided with a rose-colored prism to view their heroes. What this select group of Cardinals fans are saying is that they are no different from the Giants-Barry Bonds fans and the Dodgers-Manny Ramirez fans.
They truly don’t care that their fallen stars have been busted for drugs and continue to give them halfhearted apologies and bogus alibis. So the red-clad loyalists crowded into that ballroom Sunday with one purpose in mind — to profess their undying allegiance to their prodigal son. They cheered the guy who cheated and booed Jack Clark, the man who didn’t cheat and had the guts to criticize McGwire for his drug-fueled accomplishments.
These are the people who will provide McGwire, the Cardinals and Commissioner Bud Selig all the cover they think they need to continue getting away with the scam they are trying to perpetrate.
The scam, of course, is that everything is just fine in baseball.
“I hope you can all accept this,” McGwire said with a nervous grin. “Let’s all move on from this. Baseball is great right now. Baseball is better. Let’s just all move on.”
Nothing to look at here, people. Just move along, please just move along.
So here’s how Wag the
McGwire works. They are counting on you to be as gullible and fatigued as this small sampling of Cardinals fanatics proved to be.