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This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.
It's been a huge week for sports news. It started of course with Michael Vick joining the Philadelphia Eagles. Vick's lead-off interview on 60 Minutes Sunday night brought the news-magazine 12 million viewers, a rating 34% above its summer average. Not even healthcare reform has created a louder buzz than convicted dog fight criminal Vick back on the football field. And the debate has legs. Is Vick truly contrite over his inhumane cruelty in torturing innocent animals? Will his volunteering for animal rights groups help toward a collective forgiveness? Personally, I was surprised to discern the sincerity in his remarks about feeling the pain in peoples' faces when they talked about the dogs suffering at his hands.
While Vick was running through his first paces with the Eagles, Tiger was faltering for the first time leading into the final round of a Major and gave up the PGA Championship to South Korean Y.E. Yang. Highly respected Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino suffered headlines recounting details of his 2003 extramarital tryst. And yet all these swirling sports stories faded quickly when the one and only Brett Favre once again, yet again, came out of retirement and signed with the Minnesota Vikings. Let's face it, when a player of even 40-year-old legs instantly commands $25 million for a two-year deal, he obviously wields power and commands respect. So Favre is once again, yet again, the undisputed leader of the sports kingdom.
So I pick up the paper the other day and, hidden behind the big shot names of Tiger and Pitino and Vick and Favre is a shocking eye-opener. It's a full-blown confession from Reds' pitcher Bronson Arroyo as to extensive supplement use throughout his career. He clearly speaks about his amphetamine use for eight years on the mound and compares it to non-athletes getting through the day jacked up on coffee. He was inspired, so to speak, by Mark McGwire's androstenedione use in 1998, the very substance that is keeping McGwire out of the Hall of Fame. Arroyo admits he took andro for six years until MLB banned the substance and says andro made him "feel like a monster" and he'd still be taking it, were it not on the banned list.
Arroyo is the first player to fully disclose all the steroid cousins he's put in his body the entire length of his Major League career. He's the first one to really spell out for us when the steroid era in baseball started, how widespread it was, and why all those players should not have asterisks next to their names. Arroyo says he has no regrets for competing through better chemistry. He says non-athletes believe in some fantasy mystique that these drugs make you Superman. He explains that his fastball never increased in velocity because of the drugs. He was simply stronger, able to withstand the travel schedule better, able to hang with the long season with fewer injuries. The drugs, according to Arrroyo, didn't make him a better athlete. They allowed him to be the athlete he had the potential to be.
I nearly fell off my chair in reading the Arroyo confession. After all these years of drug revelations in sport, this was the first complete, unadulterated story told by a currently active, big-time athlete. Arroyo has spilled his guts as to each and every pill, and there have been thousands, to enter his system over the past decade.
Vick and Favre make for compelling conversation at the moment. But Bronson Arroyo giving us perspective that Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Rameriz, David Ortiz, none of them should be considered cheaters…Arroyo painting a picture of a sport that has widely operated under the weight of a full menu of performance drugs, this is the sports news not merely of the week, nor the year, but of the decade.
This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.
Banner image: Bronson Arroyo #61 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a pitch during the game against the New York Mets at Great American Ball Park on April 9, 2009 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images