One of the biggest lies in sports is that if you come clean to something you did, you'll eventually be embraced. They said it about Pete Rose, who lied about betting on baseball for a decade and a half. They said it about Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds after they were implicated in steroid use. And they said it about Mark McGwire after his image-ruining appearance on Capitol Hill, in which it became all too clear that he had used performance-enhancing drugs.
It turns out, though, that simply repenting isn't good enough for the voters of baseball's Hall of Fame. It wasn't for Pete Rose, who received even less write-in votes the year he came clean, and it wasn't the case for Mark McGwire, who tearily admitted last year that his 70-home-run season in 1998 wasn't on the up-and-up. McGwire was eviscerated when he came clean; one statement he made, in which he denied that the drugs made him a better hitter, was particularly savaged. And now the proof is in the pudding. McGwire received only 115 votes this time around -- 13 less than he got in 2010.
The reality is that all coming clean does is vindicate the opinions of the baseball writers, who all along wanted the heads of cheaters and liars on pikes. Let's not pretend that a simple thing like telling the truth means anything to them. They've kept Joe Jackson out of the Hall of Fame for almost a century, and will gladly do the same to any other cheaters, because they feel the need to play executioner. McGwire's turn in the box was supposed to have ended the minute he confessed, but by not doing it in the precise way the Hall of Fame voters would have liked, he'll probably never get more than 40% of the vote, if even that.
It's a rather hypocritical way to go about your business. The writers stand on a pedestal, demanding that the cheaters and liars come clean for all their years of disservice, promising them that they will all be forgiven if they show just the slightest bit of contrition. And McGwire, while giving somewhat of a flawed, defiant apology, nonetheless came forth on national television last year, bawling his eyes out, and showing the courage to be vulnerable to an audience waiting to pounce him. It would have been a crime if McGwire had only earned a few extra votes than he did in 2010, but to earn 13 less is nothing short of pathetic.
It gives absolutely no incentive for Bonds or Clemens or Palmeiro or any of the other steroids-users to admit to anything. Why would they? All that would happen is that a bunch of people would get on TV and scream, "Ahah! You see! I knew it all along!" And if we're going to preach that this is really a case of bad ethics, that these players are sending the wrong message to impressionable kids, then we should be just as harsh to the self-righteous baseball writers who won't even reward the very act they've been demanding for years and years and years. If anyone needs to read up on redemption, it's them.