I'm confused. Was Andy Pettitte's admission that he used human growth hormone supposed to be an apology, or an insult to everybody's intelligence?
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
Don't be so quick to give Pettitte credit for coming forward.
If what I did? Way to be contrite, Andy. Sorry, but this was more than an error in judgment. This isn't throwing to third base when the play was at first. This is your credibility and your reputation.
Some people are racing to pat Pettitte on the back for being one of three players thus far to fall on their swords after being fingered in the Mitchell report. But Pettitte's apology for taking HGH is totally meaningless, and the excuses he offers for his misdeed rank right up there with, "I was just smoking weed for my glaucoma."
Last year, the Los Angeles Times reported that former Yankee Jason Grimsley told the feds Pettitte was one of the players who used performance-enhancing drugs. This is how Pettitte responded to that allegation at the time: "I haven't done anything," he said. "I guess reports are saying I've used performance-enhancing drugs. I've never used any drugs to enhance my performance in baseball before. I don't know what else to say except it's embarrassing my name would be out there."
Now Pettitte wants us to believe he took HGH only twice in 2002, and only because he wanted to heal faster for his team's sake?
The only thing Pettitte has demonstrated is that he can lie under duress and then craft an apology that would make any public relations expert proud.
Already the apologists are circling around Pettitte, just as they circled around Rick Ankiel, who got a free pass because he supposedly used HGH following an injury. For some reason, that's been framed as selfless, even though the end goal is no different than anyone else's.
Most of us, when trying to heal, go to doctors, who prescribe us legal medication. We don't go to strength trainers. The reason Pettitte went to Brian McNamee, a trainer he shared with Roger Clemens, is because he knew no doctor would ever prescribe him HGH.
"I wasn't looking for an edge. I was looking to heal," Pettitte said.
Sure. And an alcoholic puts whiskey in his/her morning cup of coffee only to prevent the shakes.
There are a lot of legal things that can make you heal faster. But Pettitte happened to pick the one healing remedy that has side effects that reportedly include creating new muscle cells, reducing body fat and strengthening bone mineralization. But Pettitte made HGH sound as benign as extra-strength Tylenol.
Athletes are taking HGH like it's candy because they're addicted to how it transforms them. They are risking their careers and their reputations because the payoff is potentially huge. HGH may help extend careers, making it possible for pitchers like Pettitte to stay powerful into their late 30s and 40s. Yet we're supposed to believe Pettitte is the one athlete on Earth who, despite knowing the drug's power, had the self-control to use it for just two days?
Every athlete who has admitted using performance-enhancing drugs has a sob story about it, but it usually boils down to a few simple self-serving goals. They want to play. They want to defy nature. They want to be loved. They want to keep their spoils and add more. Pettitte, who put off retirement earlier this month to sign a one-year, $16 million deal with the Yankees, is no different.
If Pettitte wanted to know how to craft a real apology, he should have listened to former major-league outfielder F.P. Santangelo, who was also named in the Mitchell report. Santangelo, now a morning sports talk show host in Sacramento, didn't offer up carefully-crafted denials and empty apologies. He owned it, apologizing on the air to his children, ex-wife, parents and listeners. His anguish was real and human."I don't want to be this out-front crusader guy," Santangelo told ESPN.com's Wayne Drehs. "I did something absolutely wrong. I shouldn't be made a hero. I made a bad decision against everything I believe.
"I admitted it and I faced the music. And if by me being embarrassed helps generations to come not have to make the difficult decisions that I had to make, then it's good that this all came out. But I don't want to be Mr. Public Speaker and go talk to every high school in the world. Through my radio show, I just hope to get the word out about how bad this stuff is."
Now that's an apology.
But give Pettitte credit for taking a page from Jason Giambi's guide to admitting PED use. Nothing works better than the halfhearted, phony apology. Let's hope all Pettitte's words do is compel Roger Clemens to stay quiet.
Page 2 columnist Jemele Hill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.