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Baseball’s Big White Liar

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Former baseball star Roger Clemens was indicted Thursday for lying to Congress about his use of Human Growth Hormone, but the real reasons behind this colossal waste of time and money have very little to do with the actual lie.

The famous are often seen as different from all of us. We often alter our opinions and expectations based on the reasons for the notoriety. Actresses are generally portrayed as mentally vacant party animals and Formula 1 drivers as vain and distant. The excusability factor is completely variant based on a person’s occupation, and baseball has a certain set of rules that the public accepts because it is a sport that most of us have played. It is considered wholesome because children engage in it, and those who play it for a living are expected to further the image of America’s great pastime.

When Roger Clemens entered the professional ranks, we were treated to not only strikeouts, but the image of the good old Texas hayseed who seemed sent from heaven itself. His off-field antics were excused because he entertained us and gave us someone to cheer for on a weekly basis. We were more than willing to forget the business of baseball with every fastball. We forgot that Roger Clemens is a human being and instead viewed him as a product, a character as automatic as the ones in Playstation games, and we were wrong.

Roger Clemens is most indeed a man, and one much like us. He is afflicted with the same insecurities that we all have. When his mind told him that he could lose his job, he did whatever he could to avoid that happening; baseball had no rules against the use of pharmaceuticals at the time. He risked his health to give the fans exactly what they wanted and pad his bank account. To us, Roger Clemens played a wholesome game, but to him, he was fighting for a job.

After retiring, a man was called to account for his past. Roger Clemens could have told the truth about the past business of baseball, and he would have been scorned by each and every one of his peers. He was put in a position where he was required to defend himself, his former employers, and a business that he was still very much part of. He was called upon to defend the public image of private enterprise. But professional baseball, much like Roger’s statements to congress, is very much a lie.

Baseball has an idyllic facade that is carefully crafted by team owners to maximize financial gain. When you sign a contract a game becomes a job and paychecks replace pats on the back. Fans crowd the stands to view a product, not human beings. Every personal detail becomes scrutinized and perfection is expected in all facets of the player’s existence. Baseball’s cast of characters has been seemingly replaced by androids.

In the days of Ruth and Cobb, eccentricities were a given. Mickey Mantle’s favourite cocktails were published in magazines and Rollie Fingers’ mustache had its own nickname. Drinking and carousing were all part of the good old boy image. Fans speculated about which pitchers threw spitballs and who might be stealing signs, but it was all very tongue-in-cheek. Players played pranks on each other, told goofy jokes to the press, and toyed with fans. Baseball was a game and players were the eternal boys in the world of men. Youthful exploits were celebrated instead of scorned. The product was fun, and it was delivered.

At some point in time, the public role of the athlete changed. With powerful owners and massive contracts came the expectation of flawlessness. One mistake could and can destroy a career, and players are analyzed by green eyes and malcontents. Players are not watched for their successes, but for their shortcomings. Breaking the records of legends is seen as sacrilege and winning teams are often hated. The team environment has changed so that a few players have become more important than the collective. The game and its players have lost their humanity along the way.

Perjury indictments are generally the result of injury. People are charged because their statements may have resulted in a wrongful conviction or acquittal or caused a serious financial mistake. Roger Clemens harmed nobody but himself and has been shamed duly for it. He is being held as an example for what is fundamentally wrong with a business that accepts no imperfections. We are angry that our view of sport has been tarnished, but what if hearings were convened for every instance of bad behaviour among athletes? What if every NHL player who used stimulants when they were permitted was called to testify before a panel? And what if every NBA player was forced to tell whether or not he smoked pot and every man indicted for every time he told someone he didn’t smoke the demon weed?

This is a massive waste of money. Yes, Roger Clemens should have invoked his Fifth Amendment privileges before, and he probably will in a future criminal case. This case is not about justice, but about scapegoating a man for what is wrong with an entire industry.

Roger Clemens is not the cause of baseball’s loss of innocence, but a product of it. While it may make us feel better to hold one or two men accountable for a regrettable period in baseball, it is not justified.

Like the unrealistic image of athletes, we need to let Roger Clemens go.


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About Michelle Galipeau

  • Why should lying to Congress – committing perjury, excuse me! – be different than lying to the FBI? Is it because the former is a more distinguished body?

    Martha Steward got off relatively scott free for her lapse of judgment; so why should Clements be facing a thirty-year imprisonment? It’s ridiculous.

    Oh, I get it now, because it’s baseball, America’s purest, and we must protect our purity (or whatever is left of it).

    It’s just a frickin’ distraction to take our eye off the ball, pun intended, to make us believe our government is doing something while it’s the most inept bunch of guys and gals ever assembled.

    So now we’re going after Clemens why all the Wall Street and their sniveling house lawyers are getting a free ride, and handsome dividends besides.

    Only in America!

  • “never took a man’s job.”

    and you know that how exactly?

  • Jamie hit it my steroid srgument. Roger didn’t cause injury and never took a man’s job. Either way, a monumental waste of money by Congress

  • This is one player I feel did not need to be using steroids, or growth hormones to improve his game. He would have been a top pitcher without all the crap, and for what. Now look what he is facing!

  • I agree that this was a waste of time by Congress. They should do away with anti-trust exemption.

    I would disagree with you about MLB being “a business that accepts no imperfections” considering a hitter who succeeds 30% of the time is considered great.

  • doug m

    Tell the pitcher that didn’t make the team roster because Clemens cheated his way on that he didn’t get harmed. Or the teams that lost against him, especially in the playoffs, that they didn’t get harmed. I bet they would disagree.

    He lied when he swore he wouldn’t. Your defense of him, regardless of how corrupt baseball may be, is no different than everyone who looked the other way when he cheated. You are complicit in the fraud.

  • This is a well written defense – you could even be Clemens’ lawyer and probably do a batter job than the idiot he has now.

    But two big points: Clemens was not “required” to defend himself. He volunteered to show up at that fateful hearing a couple of years ago. He wanted it to begin with, so he deserves whatever gets coming to him as a result of that.

    Also, Clemens harmed no one but himself, you say. What about Brian McNamee, the guy who allegedly has the goods on Clemens and whom Clemens called a liar? Of course, Clemens harmed McNamee. That’s why McNamee sued Clemens.

    Clemens is a pathological liar. He’s convinced himself he is telling the truth. He’s also a scumbag for throwing his own wife (Debbie) under the bus during that hearing, saying McNamee shot her up with HGH in 2003 but not him.

    The guy was injected with PEDs, according to McNamee, who still has the evidence, allegedly. If during (what I assume will be) next year’s trial McNamee can prove this, like I said, Clemens deserves whatever punishment, jail time or lifetime banishment from baseball (Pete Rose-style).

    All the guy had to do was come clean like his good buddy (and McNamee client) Andy Pettitte did (and another McNamee client and ex-Yankee Chuck Knoblauch did), and none of this would have to be said or written. But Clemens is going the Pete Rose route and is now starting to pay the price for it.

    And I’m not happy about it. I used to be a big fan of his, being from Boston and have the man’s baseball cards (rookie card included). But being in denial myself and looking the other way is no option for me anymore.

  • I don’t think it is a case of letting Clemens or anyone else “go” per se as it is the likelihood of conviction, the overzealousness, and the fact that these guys have paid a monumental price for the fact that they played in an era where steroid use was known about by managers and trainers and nothing was really done to stop it.
    We know better now. These guys will never make the Hall of Fame and many were pressured to hide the truth.

    I think that we need to move on to enforcement of current rules. I also think that in hard financial times, it is not cost-effective to spend millions of dollars trying to give has-beens slaps on the wrist. I am more than open to the idea of companies that endorsed these folks, as well as others who have been financially damaged suing the players for damaging their brands, but i don’t think jail is the answer .

    We need to remember this awful period in baseball, and with the fact that record books have basically been burned, we always will.

    hope that offers some clarification.

  • Michelle, this a very intriguing take on the Clemens saga. I wonder though, if we let Clemens go, do we let everyone else go too (McGwire, Sosa, and so on)? Do we ever draw a line?

    Or is it that since baseball is culpable that we just forget about the whole thing?