I haven't exactly been a fan of Mark McGwire in recent years (Elephant Talk, 12-16-09), but leave it to Missouri's GOP-led Senate to make me feel sorry for the big guy.
So unaffected is the Senate by vital issues of the day (jobs / real healthcare reform) that they've devoted time to a bill that removes Big Mac's name from a stretch of I-70 in favor of Mark Twain.
If Mr. Twain were alive today he'd certainly refuse to accept this battered & abused bestowment out of utter disgust for that gaggle of turkeys roosting in Jefferson City.
As most politicos believe their jobs are meant for life, I suspect many of those voting for the 2010 name-change are the same who jumped on the bandwagon in 1999 to honor McGwire. That vote came about, even though Mark had been with the Redbirds only briefly and steroid use was obvious to all but the most stubborn of fans.
And where were these Senators in 2005 when McGwire & friends were stone-walling that august body in Washington known as Congress? On the golf course or taking a cruise, no doubt.
This whole business of naming highways and buildings after famous people has gotten out of hand, to be sure. It's always been a process driven by politics but has now become downright silly. Conservative George Will weighed-in similarly on this issue following the frenzy to plaster Ronald Reagan's name onto every public structure in America.
But now that Mark has officially come clean, the Missouri Senate has stuck its collective-finger into the air to gauge the political winds and has decided it's time to flip their votes.
Trouble is, the mea culpa which may get Mark's name removed may now actually imply the character-traits that make him semi-worthy of highway designation: truth & courage.
Granted, his recent confession on steroid use was a bit self-serving and in part, hard to swallow (steroids did not enhance his performance). Nevertheless, McGwire and former As' teammate Jose Canseco remain two of the few athletes to voluntarily admit PED use.
Any State that gave us the likes of Harry Truman, Yogi Berra, The Sporting News and my Mom must be special. Gramps was a Brownies fan when both George Sisler and The Raja (Hornsby) were hitting .400 with regularity in St. Louis of the 1920s. Born in Chicago, I'm a Cubs fan and unlike the Pale Hoser in the White House, I love that Chicago retains what Boston and St. Louis lost long ago: a second MLB team.
But the buck doesn't stop in the Missouri legislature anymore. Unlike their own grandparents, today's Senators blow with the wind. Maybe it's time for voters in the Show-Me State to show these highway hypocrites the off-ramp come the next election.
Life is funny: I find agreement with George Will and then show support for Big Mac, all in the same piece. But like they say, politics (and sport) can make for strange bedfellows.