Wednesday, March 04, 2009

It takes a big man to apologize

No doubt a lot of people will be cynical about Canadian-born former NFLer Tony Mandarich will receive for apologizing to a journalist, 20 years after the fact, for his denials of steroid use, at a time when he's promoting a book.
"Mandarich is more upfront with writer Rick Telander about his steroid use and even apologized for denying it to him in 1989.

" 'I'm sorry, Rick,' Mandarich says. 'The phrase I was wrong was not in my vocabulary back then. But I was wrong. I conned you. I lied to you about not using steroids. I was a jackass. I don't want to be like that anymore.'

"Telander says he didn't believe Mandarich then but he does now when he says he's clean now in his book, My Dirty Little Secrets: Steroids, Alcohol & God: The Tony Mandarich Story, which comes out this month." -- Detroit Free Press
Mandarich, who was the No. 2 overall pick in the 1989 draft (the next three selections were Deion Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Barry Sanders) admitted last fall that he used steroids during his college career.

Go ahead, be a cynic and say you haven't been this shocked since Lance Bass came out, or that it's odd that Mandarich would release a book around the time of the build-up for the NFL draft. His name is often fresh in football fans' minds in March and April, since he's usually appearing on top-ten lists of the biggest draft busts, after Ryan Leaf but before Todd Marinovich.

However, the choice is to take Mandarich at his word and realize he's working through a lot stemming from the wild-and-crazy guy that he was in his 20s. There's also the reality that his brother, 1980s CFL lineman John Mandarich, died of cancer at age 31, a few years after he had been using steroids during his career, with the complicity of his team.

The bottom line is that at 22 years old, Tony Mandarich had the world by the ass, had that taken away from him and actually managed to work his way back into the NFL for a few seasons. At last report, he and his spouse were running a photography shop down in Arizona. His kind of story, done honestly, can make for a good read (provided it doesn't get too preachy, as harbingered by having the G-word in the title)

In retrospect, it is kind of funny that no one was ever too scandalized by Mandarich in Canada. The Ben Johnson scandal came first, plus Mandarich was a 315-lb. offensive lineman in the National Football League. He was supposed to be cheating.

Mandarich: Sorry for lying to SI (Detroit Free Press)

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