History makes it difficult to believe Clemens
Posted: Monday January 7, 2008 9:12PM; Updated: Monday January 7, 2008 9:12PM
I want to believe Roger Clemens. I really do. The man seems so hassled, so under siege, so scarily angry right now. He seems so ... desperate. Wouldn't it be easier on everyone -- well, maybe not Brian McNamee, but almost everyone else -- if the great Clemens, the best pitcher of this generation and maybe any other one, were actually telling the truth?
The problem for Clemens, though, is that we've seen this way too many times before. We've seen famous athletes point their fingers, or stand defiantly at a lectern, or sit in front of Congress and tell us that they never did this or that despite mounds of evidence that shows this and that is exactly what they did. And then, sooner or later, they come clean.
Maybe they conjure up some lame excuse for it, or maybe they don't. They ask for forgiveness. Maybe some tears fall. But it happens way too often.
Cheat. Get caught. Deny. Repeat until you can't repeat any more.
Do I have to name names? Pete Rose swore he never bet on baseball. For 13 years he swore -- until he admitted he did. Marion Jones said she didn't use steroids, then tearfully pronounced that she did, and now she could be going to prison, largely because of lying. Jose Canseco first denied allegations of steroid use, then made a good chunk of change as a finger-pointing author by flaunting it.
Rafael Palmeiro finger-wagged at Congress, insisting he didn't use steroids, then flunked a drug test and virtually disappeared. We could go on and on and on. Football. Track and field. A new name in baseball pops up every day, it seems.
This is what Clemens faces in his fight to regain his good name after charges of using steroids and human growth hormone -- leveled by his buddy and former trainer McNamee, no less -- surfaced in baseball's Mitchell Report last month.
"How do you prove a negative? How do I do it?" Clemens practically screamed at a roomful of reporters in Houston on Monday. "Do I keep just shelling out millions [in legal fees]?"
(At that point, Clemens' lawyer, Rusty Hardin, trying to lighten the mood, said, "That's a good idea." Clemens nearly cracked a smile. Or cracked Hardin's head. I couldn't quite tell.)
Monday's meet the press exercise was remarkable in a lot of ways, the latest step in Clemens' all-out offensive to prove himself innocent of the charges in the Mitchell Report. Athletes deny these kinds of things all the time, of course, and once in a while they'll do it in front of the media. Rarely, if ever, do they call a full-blown news conference, present a piece of tape-recorded evidence that they hope will bolster their claim and then state their innocence so unequivocally. And angrily.
Clemens parsed no words Monday. He beat around no bushes. He was as coy as a fastball under the chin. And his words were about as uncomfortable. This followed a 60 Minutes interview with Mike Wallace on Sunday night (where he was equally forceful in his denials) and the filing of a lawsuit against McNamee. Clemens still has an appearance before Congress next week, too, where he claims he will answer any and all questions.
Can we believe him? Or do we believe McNamee? How about we just let them duke it out?
"I would love for him to come down here," Clemens practically spit out during the news conference. "I would be afraid for him, because my family's very upset, and like I said, I'm trying to keep my composure together through all this."