The most human, powerful and, yes, tragic part of Mark McGwire's eight-paragraph confession Monday was in this single sentence: "Looking back, I wish I had never played during the steroid era."
We're lucky or unlucky by birth, some circumstances being laid out for us that either help us along the way or present obstacles for us to overcome. We can't choose our era any more than we can choose our skin color.
We can -- and must -- however, make smart and correct choices within whatever circumstances we're dealt.
In baseball's corner of the world, in this time and place, the temptation was too much for both McGwire and for hundreds of others. The 1998 season was a sham, an entire era was built on lies. The record book is warped, legends from the past have had their numbers diminished as a result and we're going to be hearing confessions like the one McGwire delivered Monday for years. The stain is permanent, no matter how many apologies -- timely or belated -- are delivered.
Five years ago in front of Congress, it wasn't time for McGwire to discuss the past.
Now, on the eve of McGwire accepting one of Tony La Russa's persistent invitations to become the Cardinals' hitting coach, times have changed.
We never knew for certain whether this day would come for McGwire, though we pretty much knew everything he copped to -- steroid use on and off for more than a decade, including during the '98 season.
The most telling thing of all was in how carefully orchestrated this entire chain of events was on Monday. McGwire doing a phone interview with the Associated Press, the Cardinals issuing his statement, the careful revelation that McGwire phoned Commissioner Bud Selig and La Russa on Monday, another St. Louis-issued statement with pre-fabricated quotes from Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr., general manager John Mozeliak and La Russa, an early evening sit-down interview with Bob Costas and McGwire on the MLB Network.
Then there was La Russa telling ESPN's Baseball Tonight that he's "really encouraged that [McGwire] would step forward. As we go along his explanations will be well received."
That, I believe is wildly optimistic. Maybe, in time, they will be. I'm glad McGwire came clean, I think it's good for both him and the game.
But he became so small during his Congressional testimony, it's going to take a lot more Monday's developments to grow back his reputation.