Easy 'Roider

   I got an e-mail the other day gently criticizing my decision to “have a little fun” with the ongoing steroid and HGH debacle, with the reader quite fairly noting that the devastation that ensues for both the game of baseball and the individuals touched by the scandal doesn’t seem appropriate for even subdued hilarity.

   Fair enough, but part of what I was trying to do with the Roger Clemens piece that dreamed up a Col. Nathan R. Jessup-like testimony was to offer my belief that athletes at that level didn’t really think using steroids or HGH was all that big of a deal, at least until the public uproar developed.

   I don’t think you could have so many players involved if the private attitudes about such use truly mirrored what is now politically correct condemnation of same. The enforced rigidity of political correctness annoys me big time, so I tend to push against it whenever I can, even in instances where my own opinion might substantially differ from what I appear to be defending.

   I don’t know if it’s clear or not, but I have a good deal of sympathy for Clemens, and to a lesser degree, even Barry Bonds. Regardless of the widespread condemnation that attaches itself to the idea of “cheating,” I can’t shake the nagging suspicion that the pair is being ganged up on.

   My favorite newspaper, The New York Times, has pretty clearly got Clemens outfitted for some kind of “Sombrero of Disgrace.” I don’t think anybody can look at the paper’s relentless coverage of the Clemens Saga without concluding that they want his scalp (Oops, even more politically incorrect). Heck, I’ve never been a Clemens fan, in part because I liked Doc Gooden instead, but I’m not sure what he’s done to warrant the avalanche that seems to be headed his way, aside from perhaps quite thoroughly bungling the public relations effort in the weeks after the Mitchell Report was released.

   There are only two possibilities: 1. Clemens is telling the truth, in which case he has been the victim of one of the great travesties of justice in our lifetime, with his reputation left in tatters right alongside his legacy in the game itself; or 2. Clemens is lying, in which case I could still suggest that the punishment already incurred and likely to follow is grossly disproportinate to the offense. Even if you decide that he must be flogged for perjury, it’s worth noting that if we are going to come down that hard on Americans who lie to Congress, it would at least seem less hypocritical if we were even remotely as outraged when the lying goes in the opposite direction.

*  *  *  *  *

   And speaking of political correctness, several weeks back, there was a thankfully brief media stir when a video made the Internet rounds showing Pedro Martinez and Juan Marichal at a cockfighting match in the Dominican Republic. The outcry was mercifully muted, in part because while the distaste for the enterprise is fairly uniform in this country, there was apparently some allowance made for the realization that it might hold a different sway in another culture.

   Still, it got me to thinking about my own checkered past, and thus prompted a bit of long-overdue confession. I am pretty sure the statute of limitations has long since expired, but I was present at a cockfighting match nearly 40 years ago in the jungles of the Philippines.

   It was Thanksgiving Day 1969, and at 19 years old I was prone to go along with whatever adventures were proposed, within limits. I had been in the Philippines all of six months or so, with another year to go. There had been a rather pronounced resurgence of violence against American sailors from the Communist Huks, a group that had originally resisted the occupation of the Japanese in World War II and had grew into a genuine insurrection from 1946-54. The Huks had re-formed as the Communist Party of the Philippines in 1968, and posed enough of a threat to unwary sailors on liberty in Olangapo City outside the Subic Bay Naval Base that the Navy had designated virtually anywhere outside the city as “out of bounds.”

   Thus our foray into the jungle that Thanksgiving held the potential of getting us into a good deal of trouble regardless of our role in the local sporting events. The final spot in the jungle was a good 20-30 miles beyond the narrow strip of seedy bars and hotels that served as perhaps the ultimate liberty destination for sailors of the 7th Fleet and GI’s on R and R from in-country duty in Viet Nam.

   It wasn’t anything fancy like the chaotic arenas in the videos, but merely a cleared area of the jungle. As I recall, there were maybe a couple of dozen spectators, no more than that, but I concede that copious quantities of San Miguel beer may have clouded the memory. It only lasted a few minutes, and was such a tumultuous affair with all of the screaming and shouting from the local enthusiasts that I can’t even recall whether I had bet on the winner or not.

   I do recall that we ate the loser, cooked right there in the jungle over an open fire. Tasted like chicken … really tough chicken.

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3 thoughts on “Easy 'Roider

  1. Dave on said:

    Even if Clemens is truthful, one of the greatest travesties of justice in our lifetime? I am in silent agreement most of the time but Ewww, I dunno, I can think of one or two other travesty examples. It is successful fodder for friendly debate.

    Clemens has his family intact, his health as far as I know, he has his freedom, he has no criminal conviction, he is worth a couple hundred million, and still leaves people star struck at every turn(including many in Washington DC). Not too shabby. 30 mg of Prozac and a temporary halt on his newspaper delivery to his home should take any edge off his bad days if/when they occur.

    I would opine that Brian McNamee has much more to lose and much less to gain.

    I did note the preface of political correctness and discussion. In this vein, how about the public demonization of Michael Vick? Vick ended coming clean, his losses are immeasurable,he did crimes and is doing his time in the Federal Pen. Clemens possible indiscretions appear more of the white collar variety, no pun intended, I think.

    All Clemens has had to do is appear at Congress to testify and he probably did not even have to fund the plane ride. The reason he appeared was because he put himself in that position by going to public battle over this issue and raising the lawsuit, both were no win situations, showed poor judgement, and were his choices. He knowingly brought his family and friends into the picture. Almost all the evidence points to Clemens guilt. The only thing missing is a flat out confession, which he may be forced into eventually as these proceedings occur. He will then separate from his lawyer, say he was given bad advice, and go in the Hall of Fame. That’s if he follows the hand book. Did I mention that Clemens was my favorite pitcher?

    Give Clemens an injection of truth serum(the government has the best you know) and lock him in an upstate NY cabin with Dave Anderson for six months, I will read that book. If the book sells, maybe inject Tony LaRussa(or insert your own) for the sequel. It would not be effective with Bud Selig, I think he believes himself at this point, he could be doing some Stuart Smalley self affirmation exercises in the morning, that’s my guess.

    The ironic thing is that this Clemens saga in my opinion is a mere microcosm of a more disturbing picture that extends through MLB from the top to the bottom, although not entirely unlike other domestic and international sports.

    Clemens is a scapegoat for a larger and widespread, systemic problem. It is also interesting that this Clemens saga acts like a steroid for some people’s own careers. Selfish, selfish.

    Nice web site changes by the way, we will be reading and now listening.

  2. Dave … I appreciate the thoughtful comments. My statement about "one of the great travesties of justice in our lifetime" was hyperbole, sort of, but I wouldn’t back away from it too much if I added a qualifier like "in the narrow world of professional sports," or something to separate it from things like wrongful incarceration, world hunger, racism, etc.
    I know it’s old fashioned, but the hypothetical circumstance of Clemens being innocent is still interesting to me in that regard. You point out, quite fairly, that "Clemens has his family intact, his health … he has his freedom, he has no criminal conviction, he is worth a couple hundred million, and still leaves people starstruck at every turn (including many in Washington, D.C.). Not too shabby. 30 mg of Prozac and a temporary halt on his newspaper delivery to his home should take any edge off his bad days if/when they occur."
    All true enough, but the loss of his "good name," or simply his reputation, I would still regard as devastating, all the wordly comforts aside. That’s my old-fashioned side. The wrong, however unlikely, would be something that cannot be corrected; a reputation can never be completely refurbished, no matter how many millions of dollars are thrown into the effort. That’s where my overblown rhetoric comes from.

  3. Dave on said:

    Atleast we have evolved since the Salem Witch trials, slowly.

    The reputation takes a lifetime to build. The fact that it can be destroyed in the public eye for a single indiscretion is unfortunate in most cases. To lose a good reputation over a false allegation is a major pyschological sucker punch of the TKO variety. As you noted, a good reputation is something that is not readily for sale, whether at the shelves at Wal Mart or in the display cases at Macy’s.

    I see Rafael Palmeiro, I wanted to believe him. I see Pete Rose, I wanted to believe him. The skepticism skid has been getting greased with ummmm, "misremembering" from pro athletes(amongst others) at a torrent pace. Risk vs reward. I saw Marion Jones just lie through her teeth and throw everybody else under the bus in a wanton manner until her sentencing. She was an American poster child not that long ago. Drats, duped again. OK, gotta remain objective.

    One thing that struck me about Clemens was his purpose pitch. Besides Nolan Ryan, you have to go back to Drysdale and Bob Gibson to see a similar "power intimidation" pitching game. Randy Johnson treaded in this water for while but stepped away from it later in his career, like the flick of a switch. With Clemens velocity, that rising, up and in fast ball for right handed hitters is just a nightmare. Clemens exploited that nightmare. He was willing to go anywhere on that edge, I saw it when he repeatedly would get too high and tight and hit someone in the head, but that never changed his pitching, even though the stakes were extremely high. That in of itself tells me something. He wanted to compete, get every edge, and win at all costs. Many players/fans respected that, hitters feared it. Throw a bat, whatever……..Where was the line with Roger?


    I had an interesting injustice candidate in front of me this weekend down at the CSA show in Chantilly,VA: former boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. He was signing autographs and was an impulse ticket purchase as I was seduced by a nice action photograph they had of him(plus he has a nice autograph and has an interesting story-trifecta piece). Carter’s boxing career ended when he was convicted in a triple murder, a conviction ultimately thrown out. Either he was a triple murderer released from prison early or he was an innocent man who served almost 20 years hard time for a false accusation. Losing your reputation is one thing, losing your freedom for 20 years(in the one of the primes of your life) has the injustice geiger counter a-wigglin’.

    Rubin was very pleasant. He asked if I wanted an inscription and I said sure. He asked if I had a preference and I told him to write whatever he wants. "Dare to Dream Always". Even if this were canned text, it adds to the depth of the piece.

    Admittingly, I have to do some more research and reading on Carter’s story. I am not quite sure which Carter I met last weekend. I am not sure if I will ever know.

    Rush to judgement often leads to errors. Time will tell us more with Clemens, and there will be more. Keep the old fashioned patience, it is in short supply nowadays(especially in the hinter land of the "fourth estate"). It is also a valuable commodity. Interesting topics, thanks for discussing.

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