“Ambition makes you look pretty ugly.” – Thom Yorke, Radiohead, in “Paranoid Android,” from 1997’s OK Computer
The Roger Clemens-Brian McNamee divorce dominated the Valentine’s Day sports headlines. And yet while media members clamored to dissect the proceedings in Washington, most people I spoke to, both in and out of the business, treated it with a resounding “Who cares?”
Newsday’s Johnette Howard summed it up beautifully here.
As far as the Capitol Hill proceedings were concerned, I found two poignant snippets of analysis from writers for whom I have great respect: ESPN.com’s Howard Bryant, and the Post’s Phil Mushnick (Laugh all you want. He’s cynical, yes, but he gets it right).
From Bryant: "Ultimately, we did not learn that Roger Clemens lied, nor did we learn he did not. As expected, the truth lies somewhere in the creases of the memories of the people involved. What we did learn is that Roger Clemens had an answer for everything the committee asked him. At the ready, his finger was always pointing at a reason, but it was never at himself. And that is why so many of the committee members did not believe him.” (Newsday’s Jim Baumbach and Robert Kessler echoed Bryant’s summary.)
From Mushnick: “Wednesday's hearings weren't quite as party-divided as many have claimed. While all the Republicans were seen as anti-McNamee and pro-Roger Clemens (vice versa with the Democrats), Mark Souder, Republican from Indiana, was one of the committee members who wisely refused a social meeting with Clemens days before the hearing. Souder condemned such chumminess as inappropriate.
And it was Souder, Wednesday, who was the only Representative to ask why team owners weren't being called to answer for their look-the-other-way role in MLB's drug scandal. And that's still a very good question. How did team owners miss what was obvious to everyone outside of baseball?”
Some other highlights: Jayson Stark had a typically strong piece about the emotional toll Pettitte’s testimony could have on the Yankee clubhouse. A great quote from Mike Mussina in there comparing it to what Jason Giambi went through in 2004. (Mussina didn’t mention Sheffield, who at the time was also embroiled in the BALCO investigation.) The only detail Stark failed to mention regarding Pettitte’s absence from camp was that the Yankees gave him permission to report Monday, four days after the scheduled report date. With that said, it’ll be interesting to see the reaction in Tampa when he does report, and to see how willing or dismissive he is during reporters’ interrogations.
While I’ve found the coverage of these hearings to be fairer than the “rush to judgment” style exhibited following the release of the Mitchell Report, I’m feeling like Cush in “Jerry Maguire:” I just want to watch and enjoy baseball. I’m ecstatic to see stories with slugs like “Joba Chamberlain throws off a mound for the first time since ALDS.” At least if the word “injection” or “infusion” is used in and article with that angle, it won’t have anything to do with a needle.
SPEAKING OF COMPARISONS …
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was also on Capitol Hill this week, testifying before Senator Arlen Specter (R – Pa.) on the New England Patriots’ “Spygate” case. Can the media please stop attaching the word “Gate” to every scandal? It’s not original, nor is it applicable. I’d venture to guess that a sector of the population believes Nixon’s scandal took place at the Water Hotel because of this.
Mr. Goodell destroyed the Pats’ tapes in the League’s investigation. In not so many words, Goodell said, “It’s my league. We reserve the right to reopen the investigation if we see fit, and I stand by my actions.” Why can’t Mr. Selig do this?
I’m not a fan of many of the NFL’s administrative practices, particularly on the issue of health insurances and pensions for retired players, but one thing the league has done consistently is preserved its autonomy when pressed on how it polices itself. Meanwhile, MLB has continually sought help from external sources, including the federal government, and demonstrated disunity and a lack of leadership in this regard. Based on the coverage I tracked, few writers or sports/legal pundits addressed that fact.
Moreover, for politicians to cry foul on sports and attempt to legislate the leagues on a basis of purity, competition, and character is eminently hypocritical. Politics and athletics, since ancient times, have been two of the most corrupt entities, largely due to the presence of the most intrinsic and addictive of drugs: the thirst for power, success and fame.