There was the syringe, the bloody gauze, the soda pop can, the DNA, the Nanny Diaries, The Taped Phone Conversation Between BFF, the secrets and lies, the betrayals, the sworn testimony about orders for steroids and HGH (Human Growth Hormone), the mental images of exposed buttocks …
The “he said, he said …”
“Do you solemnly swear …”
It was all there. Inundated we were. On both C-Span and ESPN. Was The Trial of the Century. Except it wasn’t really a trial — except in the court of public opinion.
It was fascinating theater, this Congressional hearing starring Roger Clemens and his accuser, “this McNamee fella.”
But as a baseball fan, you cringed at all this stuff about syringes and bloody gauze. Still, you couldn’t stay away, either. Was compelling drama. Sort of like going to the zoo and ending up in the reptile building just in time for lunch and seeing the giant boa constrictor swallow the small, soft bunny rabbit with the pink ears.
It went on and on. All the “he said, he said.”
The Republicans on the House committee — Tom Davis, the screaming Dan Barton, the weepy John Duncan, all perhaps mindful of Clemens’ friendship with George Bush I — went hard after McNamee. Maybe also because baseball is a big business and the Republicans, when they tuck themselves in at night, nestle up close and intimate with Big Business before wrapping themselves up in a red, white and blue quilt.
The Dems on the panel, meanwhile, honed in hard on Clemens.
At the witness table, Clemens kept blinking rapidly as he spoke. At one point when he vented some anger, panel chairman Tom Waxman told him to be quiet. “This is not your time to talk,” Waxman reprimanded. Clemens blinked hard and his neck flushed.
It went on and on some more. Eventually I drifted off …
Clemens was saying: “Please tell me you have something more than phone bills and foot lockers and 10-year-old gauze …”
Soon, Clemens was holding court. As it were. In fact, he was on a rant. He was addressing the head prosecution attorney, a fellow named Lt. Kaffee.
“Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men throwing fastballs. Whose gonna do it. You? You Chairman Waxman?
“My existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. It wins pennants and championships and Cy Young awards.”
Clemens was really on a roll now.
“You don’t want me on that hill, you need me on that hill. We use words like team, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life defending titles and winning championships. You use them as punch lines. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the entertainment I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it.
“I prefer you said, ‘Thank you,’ and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a resin bag and toe the rubber. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.”
And then he sat down. But Lt. Kaffee bore in then, raising his voice.
“Did you order the HGH?” Lt. Kaffee yelled.
“YOU’RE DAMN RIGHT I DID!” Clemens yelled.
It was then that Chairman Waxman finally spoke. “MPs, guard The Rocket.”
Clemens, incredulous, replied, “I’m being charged with a crime?
"You ———— people. You have no idea how to defend a division title or win a world championship. All you did was weaken the game of baseball today, Kafee. That’s all you did. Sweet dreams, son.”
Whereupon Lt. Kaffee told Clemens not to call him “son” and that he was under arrest.
Suddenly, from out of nowhere, there was Kevin Bacon reading Clemens his rights.
Would that it be all that clear and comprehensive a finish to these House shenanigans that seemingly went nowhere. What happens now? Is there more stuff out there on Clemens? Will the Justice Department get involved? Will Clemens, indeed, go to jail for high crimes and misdemeanors and lying under oath? The person who seemed to loom largest over these eerie proceedings was Andy Pettitte, The Man Who Wasn’t There. Ol’ honest Andy, teammate and BFF to Clemens. Even Clemens referred to Andy as his BFF. Pettitte’s testimony contradicted everything Clemens told the committee.Clemens claimed Pettitte “misunderstood” a conversation. Ri-i-i-ight.
It doesn’t look good for The Rocket. Doesn’t look good for baseball, either. Especially when the story gets to the part about how Bud Selig and the owners washed their slick, oily palms of the whole steroid and HGH business when the whole ugly charade was going on right under their noses.
Certainly, they weren’t going to question the manner in which Clemens — and Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro and Ken Caminiti and some other good ballplayers — provided baseball with its ill-gotten entertainment.
And now, like Pandora’s Box, it’s all spilling out. Stay tuned. Film at 11.
Meanwhile, pitchers and catchers report this week. And none too soon. Baseball, all fresh and shiny and clean, begins anew.
Time begins now.
Contact Doug Clarke at firstname.lastname@example.org.