All the cool kids were doing it. The other boys were making fun of me. The era made me do it.

It was reality television at its finest. Mark McGwire sat across from Bob Costas and sought redemption for his juiced-up past.

All the cool kids were doing it. The other boys were making fun of me. The era made me do it.
It was reality television at its finest. Mark McGwire sat across from Bob Costas and sought redemption for his juiced up past.

Amazingly enough, the man who didn't want to talk about the past five years ago found a reason to talk. He wants to rejoin the league as a hitting coach for the co-dependant team that enabled his steroid use for their own gain through the home run race and pennant chase of 1998.

Of course, the Cardinals aren't the only enablers in McGwire's illegal steroid use. Major League Baseball knew. We all knew. But for the first time since the work stoppage that left baseball with similar ratings to sports with goalies, people had a reason to watch. They had to know, too.

"Did Sammy (Sosa) hit one tonight?"

"How many is that for (Mark) McGwire?"

It was compelling. The circus had found its freak show. You couldn't have gotten Commissioner Bud Selig to test either one of his meal tickets for steroids then -- and he could not have been any quicker to offer absolution when McGwire made his "revelation" Monday.

"I am pleased that Mark McGwire has confronted his use of performance-enhancing substances as a player. Being truthful is always the correct course of action, which is why I had commissioned Sen. George Mitchell to conduct his investigation," Selig said. "This statement of contrition, I believe, will make Mark's re-entry into the game much smoother and easier."

Pete Rose bet on baseball. Rose's actions were vile. Really though, how did Rose affect the game? If the story never came out, no one could have ever known.

McGwire perpetrated a fraud on the game. He used performance-enhancing drugs. That means he cheated at every at bat, every game. Rose will never be reinstated, but McGwire will be back on a team next year.

He and his fellow cheaters in the "steroid era" sullied the game whose history is tied to its present by the very numbers he manipulated with his deception. Who is better, Mickey Mantle or Hank Aaron? We have statistics to compare as accurately as possible across the generations. But steroids have ended that.

McGwire wants us to believe he went from a strong young man to gargantuan and it had no impact on his ability to hit home runs.

"The Man Upstairs gave me the ability to hit this baseball," he told Costas. Apparently his dealer lived in the garage apartment -- like if Fonzie was Richie Cunningham's steroid dealer.

I saw one minor hole in his ability to believe his own lies. If his drug use didn't affect his ability to hit home runs, why did he call the family of Roger Maris to apologize?

He also claimed he only started using when his health was failing and his teammates were noting how often he was on the disabled list. He only wanted to get back out there and help his team.

This was all public relations. The apology calls, the tell-all interviews, the crocodile tears and the revised history were all designed to pave his way back into a dugout as a hitting coach.

McGwire is a wolf who won't take off the sheep's clothing even after he is outed. But it wasn't really his fault. The era made him do it.

"It was the era that we played in. I wish I never played in that era," he said.

I was shocked. He came out five years after lying to Congress and was ready to set the record straight. The only record that is straight is that Roger Maris is still the No.1 home run hitter among real baseball players.

Sosa, McGwire and Barry Bonds should be removed from the record books. In fact, we might as well close the record books with Hank Aaron's last homerun at Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta. It is a new game now. They say cheaters never win. It's hard to look at the bank accounts and trophy stands of these cheaters and prove that fact.

Baseball's golden age is gone. There is more tarnish than tinsel.

It might take a new start, but baseball needs to clean up its act. Letting McGwire back on the field is a step in the wrong direction.

Kent Bush is publisher of the Augusta Gazette in Augusta, Kan. Contact him at publisher@augustagazette.com. This column is the opinion of the writer and not of the newspaper.