If you want to cheer for Sammy Sosa at Wrigley, you want to cheer for a lie

SHARE If you want to cheer for Sammy Sosa at Wrigley, you want to cheer for a lie

Sammy Sosa practices at Pro Player Stadium in 2003. (Photo/jeffrey Boan)

Let’s say that Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts caves in to public pressure and invites Sammy Sosa back to Wrigley Field.

There’s no doubt that 40,000 fans will give the former slugger the kind of reception you’d expect Jesus to get at his Second Coming, with the same cheers and tears but with more spontaneous healings.


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To those prone to that type of Sammy worship, a question: What will you be cheering for?

Will it be the 545 home runs he hit as a Cub, many of them fueled by something other than natural strength and excellent eyesight?

Will it be his lovable personality, the one that people only noticed because he was hitting all those artificially produced home runs?

Will it be to forgive him for fooling you? Will it be to forgive yourself for falling for such a phony? Or will it be to forgive him for refusing to ask for forgiveness for using performance-enhancing drugs?

What will you be cheering for? Here’s the answer: You’ll be cheering for drugs. You’ll be cheering for what pharmaceuticals can do for a ballplayer’s career and bank account.

And if you really want to boil it down, you’ll be cheering for yourself. See, you’ll say, he is a great guy! I was right all along!

There’s a sheepishness among Cubs fans. They were had by this guy. Once they realized he had duped them, some turned against him. Many others decided that steroids weren’t that big a deal and continued their adoration of him. A fraction argued that there was no proof that Sosa used PEDs.

We’re still talking about him because he continues to hope that the Cubs will honor him the way they’ve honored Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo and other franchise greats. NBC Sports Chicago’s David Kaplan recently landed an interview with Sosa in which the former slugger sort of apologized for something, though it was hard to tell what. Certainly not for using performance-enhancing drugs.

“The ownership, they have to understand that I’m a humble man, I’m not a man to have ego — when I was playing I was a little bit because I was focused on what I was trying to do,” Sosa said. “But right now I’m gonna be 50 years old. I’m a granddaddy, I’m a grandparent, so things change. So if I made a mistake, I don’t have to say that, but if I made a mistake, I didn’t want to offend anybody. I don’t have a problem with that, I’m sorry because, you know, I was in my zone.”

The Sosa interview seems to have emboldened the who-cares-about-cheating crowd, and it will be interesting to see if Ricketts puts his finger in the air and decides the wind is blowing out in Sammy’s favor.

But it’s a measure of Sosa’s ego that, after all these years, he still won’t acknowledge the source of some of the power he had as a hitter. That’s what Ricketts wants to hear from Sosa. He has said he wants an apology from Sosa for his mistakes, but Sammy can’t get the words out. The chairman wants to see contrition, and Sammy doesn’t even know how to fake it.

I’ve heard all the rationalizations about why the Cubs should honor him.

That lots of players were doing steroids when Sosa played. (That doesn’t make it right.)

That baseball didn’t test for steroids when Sosa and Mark McGwire were having their epic home-run battle in 1998. (Steroids without a prescription were illegal on the street.)

That Major League Baseball turned a blind eye to PEDs during Sosa’s heyday. (That has nothing to do with what we’re talking about here, which is a Wrigley celebration.)

That Bud Selig, the commissioner during that dirty era, is in the Hall of Fame, a tacit approval of the whole Steroid Era. (I don’t care.)

I care about what a Sammy Sosa Day would say. It would say that what he accomplished was the truth when, in fact, it was a lie.

Can you imagine your workplace having a day to honor someone’s unethical behavior? I think I’ll plagiarize John Updike and await your praise, a cake from the Sun-Times and the Nobel Prize for Literature.

One interesting side note is Sosa’s performance in the 2018 Hall of Fame vote. While Roger Clemens (57.3 percent) and Barry Bonds (56.4 percent) did well despite having been gigantic cheaters, Sosa was at a measly 7.8 percent. It means that voters, while showing much more lenience to suspected drug users than ever before, are still trying to guess how certain players would have done if they hadn’t taken PEDs. The jury seems to believe that Sammy wouldn’t have been great without pills and syringes.

But go ahead and have that ceremony for him. Cheer him until your voice gives out. Just know it will all be based on a lie.

Sun-Times sports columnists Rick Morrissey and Rick Telander are co-hosts of a new podcast called “The Two Ricks: Unfiltered.” Don’t miss their candid, amusing takes on everything from professional teams tanking to overzealous sports parents and more. Download and subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts and Google Play or via RSS feed.

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