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clemenssteroidspicbuzz.jpgThe beautiful American Dream of baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet turned briefly into a near-nightmare today as one baseball’s strongest candidates for “hero” status—Roger Clemens—went before Congress to defend himself from allegations that he has used steroids to give himself an illegal advantage over other players.
One of the ways we feel good about ourselves as a culture is to look up to certain people who are bigger-than-life leaders worthy of our respect and admiration. Clemens—through his wins and strikeouts, as well as his longevity—has been one of those heroes, even though he’s changed teams several times through his long career.
But yesterday, he wasn’t wearing pinstripes or a baseball cap—he was wearing a suit and tie, like a mere mortal, answering questions before the Congressional committee investigating steroid use in major league baseball.
Baseball had better be careful. Pretty soon, we’re not going to be frustrated with the unethical behavior of those playing in the great American pastime. We just won’t care. And baseball just isn’t exciting enough to be sustained without players we care for and look up to. At least football players hit each other really hard. Basketball guys fly through the air and shoot down to the basket. Hockey players fight. Race car drivers crash. But baseball? All it really is is a couple of guys playin’ catch (one of whom spits a lot) while a guy with a bat tries to interrupt ‘em every once in awhile; if he’s lucky enough to hit it, there’s eight other guys who get to play while the batter attempts to reach the high goal of running around and ending up back where he started.
Baseball needs heroes to be compelling as a sport, and its running out of them. And, perhaps worse than anything, there is no clarity to the issue at this point, and no closure.
Clemens’ trainer, Brian McNamee, stated under oath that “I injected Roger Clemens with performance enhancing drugs,” and “I injected steroids and the human growth hormone at his (Clemens’) direction.”
For his part, Clemens rhetorically asked “How do you prove a negative?” He went on: “No matter what we discuss here today, I’m never going to clear my name.“
Clemens was implicated in a major report issued by former Senator George Mitchell’s committee, which was assigned to investigate illegal drugs being used in professional baseball. I’m not saying Senator Mitchell’s report is entirely wrong,” Clemens said today. “I am saying Mr. McNamee’s statements about me are wrong.”
The potential frustration of an American public was possibly summed up by Congressman Dan Burton who proclaimed to Brian McNamee, “This is disgusting! You’ve told lie after lie after lie after lie. I know one thing I don’t believe and that’s you.”
Baseball’s issue with ethics has been going on for a long, long time. Joe Jackson and seven of his White Sox teammates were suspended from baseball for life for allegedly accepting money to throw baseball games. Mickey Mantle was excommunicated from representing the sport when he became a spokesperson for a casino. Pete Rose was suspended for life—including the Hall of Fame—for betting on baseball games. And now Clemens is joining Barry Bonds and other famous players under a cloud of suspicion for using steroids.
Perhaps the hearings will bring some clarity and closure. Or maybe we’ll at least understand what Congress has to do with it all. But in the meantime, there will be several less fans—especially young ones—checking out the games this year. And even less will be taking up the sport in their backyards.
What a shame.

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