Greatest hits in sports hero apologies

These days, even more interesting than the stories of the crime and punishment of our sports heroes are the stories of their mea culpas.

Love may mean never having to say you are sorry. But these days, sports means having to say it all the time, say it without really saying it, or not saying it at all.

Michael Vick’s appearance in the confessional of Sunday’s night’s “60 Minutes” on CBS was one approach. The former NFL star and convicted dog-fighting felon appeared as if he would have admitted to, and been contrite about, stealing the Hope Diamond had he been asked. His message was consistent throughout: Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.

Interviewer: “Michael, there are some who say that you are the lowest form of slime on the face of the Earth, that the very sight of you disgusts them, that were you to be going slowly under in quicksand and they were nearby with a rope, they’d coil it up and walk away. What do you say to that?”

Vick: “I’d agree.”

All right, so the question wasn’t quite that bad, but it was fascinating to watch the juxtaposition of a somber and penitent Vick in coat and tie, with the film of his playing days, when he was a cool guy with an entourage.

To CBS’ credit, the most obvious question was put directly to Vick: Is this remorse real or is it all part of an orchestrated plan designed by a roomful of lawyers and public relations spinmeisters to rehabilitate your image en route to several more rich NFL contracts?

Vick said it was real. That he is real.

We’ll know in about six months, or whenever he stops going to those promised sessions in which he is supposed to tell kids to be good to their animals.

Vick isn’t the only member of the Assn. of Role Models (ARM) who had to face saying sorry.

So many nonapology apologies. So little time.

There was, of course, our Manny Ramirez, who made it short and sweet: “Hey, man. I screwed up, but I ain’t gonna say no more.”

No dead dogs there, so that seemed to work and life is good again in Mannywood. The several million fans who idolized him and/or cherished the sanctity of the game and the numbers he put up are probably near the end of their therapy sessions now. So it’s OK. Just Manny being Manny.

His former running mate in Boston, David Ortiz, took a slightly different approach. On the day the news broke that he, along with Manny, had grown muscles somewhat more quickly than one does at the gym and used them to hit lots more home runs than guys who do push-ups and take Advil, Ortiz was almost upbeat.

“I’ll get to the bottom of this,” he said. “I’ll get the details and tell all. Just let me get the specifics.”

One news conference later, there were no specifics forthcoming, other than the suggestion that some supplement he took was tainted with illegal stuff. (Someday, organized sport will pool resources and track down the guy who is going from one supplement store to another, all over the country, contaminating Gatorade.)

Nope, when it came time to say he was sorry, Big Papi was a big poop-out.

Then there was Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees’ A-Rod, caught like others with his hand in the steroid jar. He had several public airings, articulated some self-loathing, talked about the culture of the day — the old “everybody was doing it” — and then took the low road by ripping the reporter who got the goods on him.

It was a C-minus performance, a weak Yankee Doodle.

Oh, and speaking of Yankees, remember Roger Clemens, who wouldn’t say he was sorry because he kept misremembering? He continues to misremember while Congress ponders whether it is worth its time and our tax money to take action, since he misremembered specifically under oath in a public hearing before them.

Barry Bonds has never said he is sorry. But then, he has never admitted that he did anything to be so. Interestingly, Major League Baseball isn’t saying it’s sorry for keeping him on the sidelines this season. Probably because it isn’t.

Call it common-sense collusion.

Rick Pitino said he was sorry about having a fling and giving the woman $3,000 that she used for an abortion. Louisville, where he coaches, quickly said it was enough for him to say he was sorry because they need him to win lots of games and make lots of money for the university.

Sorry. They didn’t exactly say that. They just meant it.

Vick will probably get to return to the NFL sometime in October. He will be playing in Philadelphia, where the fans are about as forgiving as a pit bull.