This time of the year can be torturous for sports columnists – or any columnist for that matter. Need I remind you that Dan Haley’s column headline last week read, “618 words of this and that,” which translates to “618 words I desperately pecked out to fill this portion of the page.” It’s cold, it’s dreary, the Bears are done, the Bulls have disappeared, it’s not hockey playoff time yet, and the local high school sports scene is just getting back to full swing after the holidays.

So I would personally like to thank Mark McGwire for his recent admission of using performance-enhancing drugs for most of his major league career. The topic brought up another oddity in sports I’ve always been bewildered by: the Hall of Fame.

What is this place they call the Hall of Fame? Is it immortality?

If that’s the case, the question of McGwire ever being enshrined in any hall of fame is moot, for Big Mac has already accomplished such glorification for his exploits on and off the field. He’ll be remembered forever as the guy who broke Roger Maris’ home run record during a season in which he used illegal performance-enhancing drugs. I’ll be dead, you’ll be dead, and Mr. Roboto will be explaining this to his little droid, Kilroy Jr., who hit 737 homers with one mechanical arm during a Little League season the year before.

What’s the draw here? It’s a display case, a few old jerseys, some stats, maybe a radio stream or television broadcast of the historic 62nd homer in 1998, the bat used, the ball even. Who cares about Cooperstown – besides the people who live there – when there’s Wikipedia!

At any rate, somewhere Pete Rose is snarling. McGwire should be banned from ever coaching or playing at the pro level, as should the rest of those who have confessed – after much arm-twisting by the feds and what not. There needs to be a reckoning, not simply contrition followed by forgiveness. It’s time to give baseball back its integrity and its innocence! (I just slammed my fist on my desk and it hurts like hell).

Is anyone else baffled as to how McGwire has the credentials to be the hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals? The guy struck out 1,596 times in his career. He’s 29th on the list of most strikeouts in major league history. During the historic ’98 season, he had more whiffs (155) than hits (152). McGwire majored in the long ball, but do you think he’s going to show Albert Pujols how to hit the long ball? Pujols averages 40 dingers a year with major league sanctioned drug testing.

We can only roll our eyes when McGwire claims the drugs he took didn’t actually aide in his performance on the field but merely made him recover quicker from injuries. That notion is ludicrous. Someone needs to tell McGwire that if he’s going to come clean, he might as well scrub the Irish Spring soap down to its last suds. Had he not been on the juice, Big Red never would have hit that many home runs.

If it’s redemption, forgiveness, or enshrinement he wants in that odd place they call the Hall of Fame, McGwire might as well man-up and spill everything … and do it before robots take over the earth.

Contact: bspencer@wjinc.com

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Brad Spencer

Brad Spencer has been covering sports in and around Oak Park for more than a decade, which means the young athletes he once covered in high school are now out of college and at home living with their parents...