The sight of Mark McGwire in the late 1990s was an awesome spectacle. He had shoulders like tank engines, the chest of a hulk and biceps that weren't guns - they were cannons.
It didn't seem natural that freakish layers of muscle could be piled on those hockey-stick legs.
On Monday, McGwire finally confirmed that it wasn't.
Several years late, McGwire fessed up to using steroids while obliterating baseball's single-season home run record in 1998.
He is the biggest baseball star yet to come clean.
McGwire is clearly hoping to take his lumps now and avoid a media circus when he starts his new job as the St. Louis Cardinals' hitting coach next month.
It's a good move that may clear a path of forgiveness to the National Baseball Hall of Fame for him. I've written that I'd never vote for him, but I could see changing my mind.
His records are soiled. But the whole era is marked by steroids. If you keep McGwire out, then you have to keep everyone out.
That wouldn't be right.
The truth is, a lot of people made huge money during the McGwire era -- a period when players began swelling and slaughtering baseballs in the mid-1980s.
As it happened, the sports media -- myself included -- were oblivious or in denial. The baseball players' union squandered the credibility of all players while protecting the most dishonest among them.
And the fans? They cheered the cheaters and killed the messengers. The cynical denial in my home region over the obvious steroid use of Barry Bonds still boggles the mind.
It proves that the myth of athletes as role models is a more powerful drug than 'roids.
Look at McGwire. He became a folk hero loved in a scary, irrational way.
Some worshipped to the point of raging at those who questioned the validity of his home runs. Reporters who did were practically stoned in the public square.
In a Cardinals uniform, he was treated like Superman in the heartland. They even named a freeway after him -- which proves the hazards of dedicating public works after mortal athletes.
The joyride ended in 2005 on the Steroid Freeway when McGwire ducked probing questions before Congress. He was ripped for choosing to filibuster. He only repeated, "I'm not here to talk about the past."
It was clear that McGwire didn't want to lie and didn't want to tell the truth.
Now consider Bonds in this context. He's never challenged the facts of his steroid use and his trainer went to jail instead of testifying for the feds.
Why do you think that is?
Clearly, Bonds was part of a sport awash in performance-enhancing drugs. There is real testing now because Congress forced baseball to address the issue -- even though that angered many fans and media types.
Their protests were a symptom of the myth.
But now that McGwire has come clean, it's time for us to follow.
We can teach kids to admire athletic talent -- and to appreciate the joy of sports -- without embracing false idols. We can knock McGwire for cheating, but don't blame him for bursting our bubble.
That's on us.