If you have been watching the news or reading the paper at all of late, then you know about the Mitchell Report. It reveals, to some degree, the use of performance enhancing drugs by professional baseball players and includes several big name players who allegedly used them. One of those names is Andy Pettitte, a member of the New York Yankees and one of my favorite players.

I was surprised, as many people were, that his name was included in the report. Andy is one of those rare figures who seems to exude honesty and charisma and excellence. He has been a great player, especially in the big games where a good pitching performance can change the momentum of a whole series. He is stoic on the mound, calm off the field, a family man and religious. So hearing his name was surprising.

On Sunday he came out and admitted that he used HGH (human growth hormone) in 2002 when he was injured. He admitted he made a mistake and asked fans to forgive him and not judge his career on that little mistake.

Since Sunday, nearly every sports writer has chimed in with their opinion, more often than not, criticizing Pettitte and his apology. If you want just a few of those opinions, go on over to ESPN and read a few of their thoughts. I have read them and those of most of New York City’s major newspapers. It is sad to read so many negative articles bashing Pettitte for being a cheater and only admitting it after he had been publicly named.

Now I must say that I am still on the fence on this issue. I can understand how Pettitte was hurt and sitting on the bench watching his team and wishing he could get back out there on the field and play. I have been there. I have been injured and it is torture knowing if only the arm or leg was feeling a bit better or the doctor would clear me to play, I could go out there and make a difference. I could change the course of a game, a season. It is torture watching your best friends playing a game you love and you can only watch when for so many years you were out there playing. I would have done anything to get back there on the field and did. I sat in tubs of freezing water for half an hour and had pretty little nurses run ultrasounds around my knees and tendons. I had medication electrically driven into my muscles, went to acupuncture and had them light the needles on fire in an attempt to increase the effect, even had surgery to help fix internal damage that was taking too long to heal naturally. I drank liquid oxygen and ate a huge bowl of pasta at 7PM sharp two days before competitions all in an effort to enhance my performance. Yes, I can understand the desire to get back on the field and help my team win. Would I cheat to do it? I would be very tempted.

I am willing to bet that our future is heading in this enhanced direction. I can see a day where there are doctored diets and elixirs that chemically and physically enhance our children’s ability to learn, remember, and think. I am sure that there will be new procedures and experimental surgeries that involve exotic and dangerous methods and drugs. Yet, they can cure cancer. They can heal a crippled leg or spinal paralysis. If my child has cancer and needs one of these surgeries or was in a car accident I caused and can’t walk unless they use these drugs or those cell transplants, I am probably going to go ahead and have them done. I want my child to have a healthy, normal life. I want my child to have the best possible chance at a good life.

Maybe that’s why I can’t judge Pettitte. I might do the same kind of thing in the future if I care enough about the circumstances. In fact, I have already forgiven him. At least he did admit it and asked for forgiveness. That took character. Over eighty other names were in that report and very few of them have stepped forward.

Now a few of you would like to trumpet the fact that he broke the law. That he didn’t go to a doctor for that medication because he knew it was wrong. And so many of you say it with righteous indignation. I agree with you. He was wrong. But even though I have tried to uphold the law, I too have broken it. I have gone faster than the speed limit. That’s a law, and yet I broke it. I have rolled through a stop sign. That’s a law too. Half of America has smoked marijuana. And half of America broke the law. Ah! But those are different laws. They’re not the same as taking HGH. Yes, well, who are you to say so?

What I think it boils down to is that someone we respected, who we gave our trust and hope to, has betrayed us. We spent 162 days a year for the past ten years with this man who seemed like us, yet had an ability that we secretly wished we had and rose to highs we wish we could have reached. He was one of the guys, an ordinary Joe who took our dreams with him as he rose and thrived in the spotlight. In a way, we went with him.

Andy Pettitte became one of our heroes.

And then he let us down. That’s what we can’t get over. That is what is bothering us. That’s why we are angry. It’s hard for us to have heroes who let us down, who seem ordinary, who seem so much like us.

© Seth Crossman