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.