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When Roger Struck Out

When Roger Struck Out

We all write our own legacy. Dare to tell the truth.


I approached my seat on the Frontier Airlines flight from Denver to Seattle expecting to sleep from the moment I sat down until we landed. However, when I sat down, in front of me was a TV screen showing New York Yankee pitcher Roger Clemens entering a congressional hearing room -- and for the next three hours I was glued to the screen.

In 1999 Clemens, regarded by many as the greater pitcher in baseball history, allegedly began to use banned and illegal substances to give him the strength to continue pitching at a high level despite his aging body. While the evidence points to his use of drugs, Clemens has adamantly denied it. In fact, he requested this congressional hearing to have the chance to clear his name.

The exact opposite occurred.

At the hearing, it was announced that Clemens' teammate and good friend, Andy Petite, testified that Clemens had admitted using these illegal substances, and Petite testified that he'd used these drugs himself. Clemens tried to wiggle his way out of this jam, but in the end it was clear that Clemens was lying.

All the no-hitters and World Series rings are tainted.

This baseball legend, who was assured of his spot in the Hall of Fame, not only used illegal substances but also lied about it to the authorities and to his fans. All the strikeouts, the no-hitters, the World Series rings and the record seven Cy Young Awards are tainted. Clemens has likely forfeited his ticket to the Hall of Fame.

This stands in stark contrast with Andy Petite. He told the Congressmen that one day he will have to appear before God and, therefore, he is going to tell the truth regardless of the consequences. Petite's straightforwardness and honesty has earned him the respect and acclaim of the public. People can forgive the fact that in a moment of weakness he succumbed to certain pressures and used an illegal substance while his honesty and dignity will stand as his legacy.

Game, Set, Match

Andy Petite's admirable admission brings another Andy to mind. Andy Roddick has been a superstar tennis player for years with many championships including the top-ranked player in the world. But special respect is due to Andy for one brief episode which took place at the Rome Masters tournament in May 2005.

Roddick was playing against Fernando Verdasco of Spain to gain a spot in the quarterfinals. Roddick had won the first set and had brought the second set to match point. Verdasco was serving, down 15-40, and hit a second serve which the line judge called a double fault. Game, set, match. Roddick had advanced to the quarterfinals.

However, Roddick, himself would not allow it. As he explained, "I looked at it and I couldn't really tell. But then I looked again, and it was in."

Andy motioned to the umpire, pointing to the clear ball mark on the clay -- indicating that the ball was in. The call was changed and the two played on. Verdasco fought through two more match points, held serve, and eventually went on to win the match 6-7, 7-6, 6-4. Roddick was eliminated from the tournament.

Much praise has been heaped upon Roddick for his honesty and what the media called "choosing sportsmanship over the win." Roddick downplayed it all saying, "I didn't really do anything out of the ordinary. The mark was there. It's not like I was feeling generous. It's just the way it was."

He has the fastest serve in tennis history, but commitment to truth became his legacy.

Despite Roddick's humility, in the world in which we live, his action was extraordinary. He has the fastest serve in tennis history (155 mph), but when talking about his career, people in the tennis world frequently reference this incident. Roddick understood that achievement through false means is no achievement, and will not stand the test of time. And this commitment to truth became his legacy.

The Talmud teaches that falsehood does not have any lasting quality to it and truth is the only thing which lasts. The Talmud demonstrates this point from the letters of the Hebrew words for truth and falsehood. The letters of the word for truth -- emet -- span the entire Hebrew alphabet: aleph is the first letter, mem the middle letter, and taf the final letter. This shows that truth stands secure. By contrast, the letters of the word for falsehood -- sheker -- are grouped together consecutively, indicating that a lie will not stand up over time.

Furthermore, all of the letters of the word emet stand firmly on a base or on two legs. The letters of the word sheker, on the other hand, stand on one leg; they lack stability and eventually fall over. This is captured by the statement of our Sages that "falsehood has no legs" -- both in the appearance of the letters and in reality.

We all have tests of telling the truth. And of course the test is far greater when your reputation, your legacy -- and millions of dollars of endorsements and contracts -- is on the line. But as Andy Petite said at that congressional hearing, in the end it's all between you and your Creator.

Roger "the Rocket" Clemens has always stood at the pinnacle of his sport. He is a living legend. But now, the man who's struck out so many batters has, ironically, been thrown out on strikes.

February 23, 2008

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Visitor Comments: 18

(18) james, March 17, 2008 11:37 AM

Then you are not capable of "rightous" judgement

Without the ability to see through to a complete proof of guilt. It is obvious you are not capable of "rightous" judgement. Sad

(17) Mark McGuire, March 6, 2008 1:01 PM

Court of Public Opinion not US Court

Even according to halacha, Clemens has a chazaka/given assumption that he lied. The evidence is overwhelming indicating the lie.

(16) james, March 1, 2008 7:36 PM

Probably did and proven done aren't the same

Here is the deal. If a person has done something in America it has to be proven in a court of law. Beyond a reasonable doubt. Proven in court, with all the rules that go with it.
In this case there is a possibility that Roger is telling the truth. After all he could have just said he did it and it all would have gone away. Like it did for Petite. He called the hearing himself so he could tell the world his side, that he didn't do it.
Could Petite have made a mistake? Is the guy dealing drugs just looking for a bigger book deal? Can "he" really be trusted? Using a name like Roger Clemens sure would give him more attention. The point is that it doesn't even matter. I am not a fan of any of these people. I really don't have time to watch it. I am however a fan of fair play.
In this situation they have convicted a man without using the proper tools. If he did it, prove it in court and I will be the first to say he's guilty. That hasn't been done. So at this point whether he really did it or not is irrelavent. To be fair he shouldn't be covered with something unless or untill there is proof that he crawled in it.
Let your judgement be with rightous judement.

(15) Masha Himelstein, February 29, 2008 4:12 AM

The Truth

The truth will win out in the end all the time

(14) Rafi Palmeiro, February 28, 2008 12:51 PM

Roger Clemency
By Steve Henson, Yahoo! Sports

Roger Clemency. That's the end game here. That's how the greatest pitcher of a generation will be remembered. As leaning on a presidential pardon to avoid jail time.

He already has been stamped a shameless liar. And a habitual drug cheat. And a pig-headed egomaniac who would bring humiliation on his wife, blame everyone around him and expect the public to swallow his ludicrous denials.

Too harsh? John McCain doubts Clemens. So do Yahoo! Sports readers, 81 percent of whom indicated they believed he took performance-enhancing drugs in an online poll the day after the Congressional hearings two weeks ago.

It is obvious Clemens believes himself untouchable. It's the bedrock of his legal strategy. It's why he willingly stepped into a perjury trap thinly disguised as a Congressional truth-seeking exercise two weeks ago.

And it's why he unblinkingly anticipated the development Wednesday that the U.S. Attorney General has been asked by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to launch an investigation. Charges are laid out in an 18-page document that lists "seven sets of assertions made by Mr. Clemens in his testimony that appear to be contradicted by other evidence before the Committee or implausible."

Clemens, remember, didn't just dodge questions and deflect evidence that contradicted his claims. Early in the hearings he made a point of saying, unsolicited, that he "never used anabolic steroids or human growth hormone."

Implausible testimony by an untouchable witness. Shades of Scooter Libby.

Clemens appears to be counting on friends in the highest places to grant him clemency should the truth not mesh with his version of events. Richard Emery, an attorney for accuser Brian McNamee, predicted as much after the hearings, saying Clemens could get "a prospective pardon. They are perfectly legal, and it would be typical of the George Bush White House. We'd expect Bush to call Clemens 'a historic figure' who has done so much for this country and then let him off."

No wonder the hearings devolved into a partisan sideshow, with Democrats castigating Clemens and Republicans rebuking McNamee. It was an odd reversal of party stereotypes: Law-and-order Republicans gave Clemens every benefit of the doubt, while bleeding-heart liberals scoffed at his claims of innocence.

Principles, clearly, would not cloud politics. Not after Clemens slyly mentioned his Bush ties early in the proceedings.

Former president George H.W. Bush telephoned the pitcher soon after the release of the Mitchell Report to pledge his support. Bush and his wife, Barbara, sat behind home plate during Clemens' starts for the Houston Astros from 2004-2006, dutifully singing "Deep in the Heart of Texas," during the seventh-inning stretch.

Clemens and George W. Bush are friendly. Bush has the authority to grant pardons for any federal crime and even could grant Clemens a preemptive pardon, shielding him before an indictment is handed down, should the investigation drag on beyond the end of Bush's term in office. The only hiccup could be a Barry Bonds perjury conviction, which would make a Clemens pardon particularly odorous unless Bonds received the same consideration.

Fine. Prisons are crowded enough without clearing cells for Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. Same goes for Miguel Tejada and any other athlete whose lies about steroids or HGH plunked them into legal hot water. Free Marion Jones!

I understand that prosecutors and other federal officials, elected or otherwise, can't tolerate folks lying under oath. But steroid users don't endanger society – Arnold Schwarzenegger and his budget woes in California notwithstanding. Back off and find some real criminals to investigate, interrogate and prosecute.

For athletes, the damage is done even before the lies pile up. Their reputations are in shambles, their records forever tainted. Their stain has seeped throughout sport, through more than a decade of dubious achievement. And nobody believes the denials anymore. Prison is overkill.

Yahoo! Sports conducted three polls since the Mitchell Report, each asking the identical Yes or No question: Do you believe Roger Clemens took performance-enhancing drugs?

Poll No. 1: The day after the Mitchell Report was released, 81 percent of the more than 102,000 respondents voted "Yes."

Poll No. 2: The day after Clemens made forceful denials on "60 Minutes," 66 percent of the more than 40,000 respondents voted "Yes."

Poll No. 3: The day after the Congressional hearings, 81 percent of the more than 70,000 respondents voted "Yes."

Any gains in the court of public opinion gained by appearing on "60 Minutes" were washed away by his unconvincing testimony before Congress. Clemens never will gain back his credibility, barring a complete McNamee retraction.

The powers that be are as unconvinced of Clemens' claims as our readers, leading to the request for a perjury investigation.

So let it begin. Let it grind through painstaking evidence-gathering and interviews. The conclusions may or may not result in charges. It's a tough case to prove, given the evidence in the public record.

Clemens knows that, too. If the Attorney General's office declines to pursue the case, or if an investigation ends without an indictment, there is no doubt he will pronounce victory. He's not one for nuance. Or shame. He will attempt to twist any conclusion other than an indictment into vindication.

And should an indictment come down, followed by a trial and a guilty verdict, Clemens apparently believes his bases are covered. If he just continues to be a bulldog, fire enough fastballs and stay the course, the outcome will be favorable to him.

You could almost hear his voice through his son Koby, a Houston Astros minor leaguer, who said a couple of days ago, "It's going to be a long process, but once we get through it, all will be back in order."

The words had the same ring as Clemens' explanation why he hadn't spoken to the Mitchell Commission before the report came out. Had he known what was in the report, he'd have "been down there in a heartbeat to take care of it." (Never mind that he actually did know what was in the report.)

Show up. Take care of it. Restore order. And if directness fails to deliver, the fallback plan is clear: Roger Clemens will become Roger Clemency.

Steve Henson is the MLB editor for Yahoo! Sports.

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