October 23, 2014

The Clemens Verdict

June 20, 2012 by · 6 Comments 

The Clemens trial played out over the long weeks here in DC. Eight weeks is a lot of billable hours for a top tier criminal attorney. Roger Clemens may have been acquitted by a jury of his “peers,” but there are few in DC who show up for jury selection that could sustain an attorney for eight minutes, much less eight weeks. Justice may be blind, but the lady bends for a buck.

Almost anyone who read the evidence as it has been presented in every press outlet across the country for several years believes that Clemens was on the juice. His wife admitted she was on it, supplied by the same dealer who testified repeatedly that Clemens was as well. Yet we are to believe somehow that Roger was a virginal babe in the woods, done in by those who wish him harm and to profit from his talents and celebrity. Such fairy tales are unfit for children, yet a group of randomly selected adults were lulled to sleep by it.

We have always placed our sports heroes in a world apart. During the Great Depression Babe Ruth and Dizzy Dean flaunted their wealth like movie stars. The public accepted it then and, as the Clemens verdict proves, they do now as well.

A wink and a nod for late night carousing is one thing. But I have heard some say that the level of Clemens’ crime did not fit the possible punishment, that lying to Congress should not warrant serious punishment. Clemens attempted to prejudice the discussion of steroids in the game. He was acquitted of doing it, but the seriousness of the allegation should not be discounted. Is is one thing to allow them to have a garage full of Aston Martins, another to give them a posse of lawyers that sets them apart from our most basic rules of behavior.

Is the Clemens verdict along the same slippery slope on which we allowed the women and men of Wall Street–the ones who bilked us of our children’s legacy–to walk free. How far does our deference to wealth and celebrity extend? What price do we pay?

One of the most regrettable parts of the Clemens trial was Andy Pettite taking the stand and undermining completely his earlier honest admission to have taken the same drugs as Clemens from the same source. Should we applaud that there is honor among thieves, that baseball players care more for their own than they care for the standards of behavior of the larger community that supports them.

A friend of mine was a teaching assistant at the University of Texas when Roger Clemens was there as a student. He had Clemens in the survey course for which my friend was left to give out grades by the professor. Our famous young pitching star failed miserably, but knowing he would not be allowed to play baseball in the spring if the grade stood, he cried like a baby to get his grade changed. My friend was inveighed upon to change the grade. Such a small thing, honesty and integrity when you stack it up against Clemens the star athlete.

There were copious tears again from Clemens after the verdict was read yesterday, but it is the rest of us who should be crying. It is one thing to allow ball players to flaunt their wealth, it is another to let them corrupt our legal system.

The conventional wisdom of the sports world is that the trials of Clemens and Bonds were a waste of tax payer money. It may be true, but it is a sad truth, not a glib one. The trials are a waste only because we allowed them to be. Our judges, lawyers, and the courts in which they practice are far too often driven more by money and politics than by truth.

There are plenty of good lawyers and many honest ball players. I mean no disrespect to them. But Clemens, and Pettite as well, have called not only their own integrity to question, but that of the game as a whole. The pundits can blame the legal system, the government, whatever they wish and move on. But in a democracy, we are “they”–all of us. We are the ones who bear not only the money cost, but the moral weight of the flawed verdict in the Clemens case.

Roger should have failed that course back in Texas. But it is the rest of us who have failed instead.

Comments

6 Responses to “The Clemens Verdict”
  1. Kathleen says:

    Like it or not, professional athletes are honored as role models in our celebrity driven society. I’ve read that the current generation has been “educated by advertisers”, I’m afraid that their moral integrity has also been compromised by the selective standards of conduct with which we hold up our “All American” athletes.

  2. Tim Newey says:

    Great article, I couldn’t agree more. I don’t know why stars are treated differently. It is even evident in the NBA by the way they call fouls when Lebron has the ball versus say Nick Collison. My only complaint in this whole process is: why is this even something that Congress is sticking its hypocritical nose into? The publicity addicted and power hungry members of Congress have many more important things to be working on and should leave the policing of professional sports to the leagues themselves! The leagues need to step up and punish cheaters and not rely on the legal system.

  3. We should demand more of our athletes in exchange for the money not less. Their standard of behavior should be greater, not lower. I don’t know where or who begins to excuse them, to lower the bar. It deserves more than anecdotal evidence, which I don’t have, but I would suspect that when so many media commentators are former jocks, it doesn’t exactly raise the ante.

  4. steve lenox says:

    A well written piece, Ted. Thank you.

  5. Marc Hall says:

    I agree with many of your points Ted. But I also have a problem with DOJ selecting to prosecute Clemons for lying to Congress as opposed to what we are actually concerned with which is the use of HGN. Is he really any worse than Palmairo or Sammy Sosa (who suddenly forgot that he spoke English as you previously pointed out to me) at those hearings. Clemens will pay a price by not going to the HOF as will a number of our juiced heroes.

    As to the double standard of the criminal justice system, I could write as book as you know.

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