I remember the first time I ever heard about Roger Clemens. It was the early ’80s, I was around 14 years old, and my dad was sitting at our kitchen table reading the Boston Globe sports section aloud, telling about the excitement surrounding a pitcher the Red Sox had drafted out of the University of Texas. The article said Clemens threw heat and that he had Hall of Fame potential. I still remember how that name sounded the first time I heard it. It sounded like raw talent. It sounded like an ace of spades. It sounded like hope for a franchise desperate to win a World Series. Today, the sound of Roger Clemens’ name has a different ring to it.
Like everyone out there, I have a gut feeling about whether or not Roger Clemens used performance-enhancing drugs. And my gut feeling has been the same for several years, since long before I ever heard of Brian McNamee. The ridiculous improvement of Clemens’ statistics as he got older (especially after his mid-career demise between 1993-1996) says a lot.
But the current public grilling of Roger Clemens serves only one purpose, really. It’s great theater. Riveting entertainment. Clemens is arguably the greatest right-handed pitcher of all-time (his 7 Cy Young Awards are a record) and we all find it fascinating to watch him fight desperately to save his reputation — and his wife’s — with the same competitiveness and bullheadedness that made him a superstar. Yup, it’s fascinating in an O.J. Simpson kind of way.
Yet I can’t think of one reason why it makes any difference whether we ever learn whether Clemens used something, or not (other than to save the credibility of whichever of the two is telling the truth). We already know that performance-enhancing drugs have been part of the culture of baseball in the sport’s recent history. Every team had users. The outcome of every game over the last ten years was probably affected in some way by steroids or HGH. That’s all that really matters to me as a passionate fan of the game. Baseball needs to be cleaned up. Period.
The objective of the Mitchell Report was not to implicate players, it was to reveal the degree to which performance-enhancing drugs have infiltrated the game and to recommend steps to recover the game’s integrity. So can someone tell me how the conversation has degenerated into this made-for-TV-ratings soap opera that has nothing to do with the Mitchell Report’s original intention?
And why does Congress care so much about whether Clemens or McNamee is telling the truth? I don’t get it. Aren’t there many, many more important things for our elected government officials to be worrying about than whether or not Roger Clemens stuck needles in his butt? Have these U.S. representatives been sucked into this story for the same reasons we’ve all been sucked in — by a fascination with the potential meteoric downfall of one of the most famous athletes of our time, and by the magnitude of the story? How did that hearing today help the people of the United States of America?
So, either Clemens or McNamee is lying. None of us can help but have an opinion about this debate. But unless you make your living from tabloid journalism or you happen to be closely related to Clemens or McNamee, the issue is really irrelevant. Let’s move on. After all, Red Sox pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers TOMORROW (Thursday, February 14). Rejoice!