"More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn't read"

- Oscar Wilde

Monday, August 30, 2010

Roger, Roger, Roger

Politicians struggle to grasp the first rule of managing a scandal—the cover-up usually causes more harm than the misdeed. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that the guy whose intellectual strength begins and ends with the ability to hide his change-up can not seem to understand that the lie looms as his ultimate downfall.

There is no gray area in Roger Clemens’ sad saga—he either dabbled in steroids and/or other performance enhancing drugs, or he did not. He either lied to Congress and continues repeating the lie that he did not use PEDs, or he is telling the truth. The evidence strongly suggests the former. Clemens was scheduled to be arraigned Monday in U.S. District Court in Washington on six counts of perjury, false statements, and obstruction of Congress. Those charges stem from the now infamous 2005 congressional inquiry into the use of PED’s in Major League Baseball, at which Mark McGwire ducked the great question and Rafael Palmeiro gave his finger-wagging, unequivocal denial.

McGwire later fudged an answer—he may have, somehow, at some point, used something. And for all intents and purposes it was good enough to allow McGwire a return to big-league baseball this season as a coach with the St. Louis Cardinals. Palmeiro, later suspended by MLB after testing positive for steroids, amended his denial—he never “intentionally” used steroids. He remains a baseball pariah, but he has faced no perjury charges.

The example Clemens should have followed was set by his old pal, and potential state’s witness, Andy Pettite. The New York Yankees left-hander, one of Clemens’ closest friends during his time in the Bronx, came clean, to a point, over his steroid use and was welcomed back to the MLB community with open arms. Pettite also offered a convincing account of Clemens’ admitting to using PED’s; Clemens says Pettite “misremembers” the conversations.

Clemens also dismisses testimony from his former personal trainer, Brian McNamee, who has confessed to injecting Clemens’ with various drugs and says he has the used syringes to prove it. Perhaps Clemens’ pride will not allow him to admit any such weakness. It could also be that Clemens has convinced himself that the lie is truth. He would hardly be the first professional athlete to crawl into a self-created reality and bark at the rest of world for refusing to join him. As Red Sox fans will no doubt recall, Clemens has always had a penchant for seeing things his way even if it means ignoring the facts.

Clemens’ problem is that now he is not simply trying to convince the sporting press or a public that is inclined to adore anyone capable of winning 300 games. He is venturing into the legal system, which is notoriously unsentimental. It is highly unlikely he will stand before a judge who is awed by Clemens’ World Series ring.

And if he loses this one, Clemens will not simply be allowed to skulk into history, perhaps denied nothing more than a spot in baseball’s Hall of Fame. This loss could mean jail time. Clemens still has time to avoid such a fate. He could broker a plea bargain and start putting it all behind him. Sadly, that might require more courage than Clemens can muster.

I guess my major issue is that he’s just another ballplayer. He, and many like him, used PED’s in the 80’s, 90’s, and early part of this century. I wish that Congress, and more importantly, MLB would answer his question for us. Yes, you did steroids Roger. And it is not OK to do steroids Roger. However, you are a hall-of-famer and an American icon. Learn from this. Teach those that play the game after you that it’s not good to do steroids. On the other hand, steroids saved baseball. Baseball has been able to exist without a salary cap because of the long ball. Nevermind that it’s completely ridiculous that 5 or 6 teams hold 80% of the league’s net worth. We don’t care as long as guys are still hitting home runs and throwing lights out. So we kind of owe it to steroids for saving baseball. Why can’t we just admit that and let everyone get on with their lives.

My opinion—make them legal. Let every kid with a bat and ball shoot himself up with drugs and try to smack the ball out of the park…at least it will keep the game interesting.