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Sunday, January 06, 2008
Initial Thoughts on the Roger Clemens Interview

Mike has some excellent comments on Roger Clemens' "60 Minutes" interview, particularly on the prospects of a defamation suit by McNamee (I basically agree with what Mike says here ) and of Clemens testifying before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform later this month.

My random several cents:

I am not sure why Clemens decided to do this interview because I do not think he got much out of it. He looked and sounded angry and he was vehement in his denials--but nothing beyond what would be expected. I guess I was hoping to hear something different and I did not. And, at bottom, I am not sure I believe Clemens in his denials. Saying something loudly, repeatedly, and with feeling does not make it true. I recognize, of course, that this just reflects the difficulty of Clemens having to prove a negative--that he did not take steroids.

"Outside the Lines" had an interesting segment Sunday about the difference between athletes trying to make a case in a court of law as opposed to in the court of public opinion. This interview was clearly about the latter, but I am not sure how well it played in that court. But as I discussed and as Mike discusses in his piece, his efforts to win in the court of public opinion may push him into a corner in a court of law (or a committee hearing).

Second, Clemens makes a lousy witness. He was sweating; he was fidgeting; he was fiddling with something in his hands, Captain-Queeg-like; and he looked extremely nervous (my wife, a mental-health professional, noticed all of these things right away). Now, he was sitting under hot lights. And I am sure I would be nervous if I had an officious nonogenarian asking me questions for national television. But this video demonstrates why there is so much reliance on demeanor evidence in court. Seeing what Clemens looked like and how he acted during the interview makes it that much more difficult to believe him.

Finally, Clemens at one point described all the drugs he has taken and all the injections he has received, from team trainers, to be able to keep pitching (he spoke in particular about what he had to do before one game in 2001 World Series). People typically think about football players taking all sorts of injections to get on the field; it was educational to hear what baseball players have to do to get through a season. So, I return to a question I (and others) have asked before: What is the rational basis for treating steroids and HGH differently from these other drugs? I do think this is a conversation worth having.


To each his own, I guess...

I thought Clemens came across as angry, forceful, and believable.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 1/07/2008 8:25 AM  

"What is the rational basis for treating steroids and HGH differently from these other drugs?"

There isn't.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 1/07/2008 10:57 AM  

"What is the rational basis for treating steroids and HGH differently from these other drugs?"

"There isn't."

I suppose the simple answer to this is legality, but why not broaden the question further and include things like laser eye surgery in the discussion. One of Ted Williams greatest advantages as a hitter was superior eyesight, something that can be changed by a minor medical procedure today. How is this not "performance enhancing"?

Blogger Chad McEvoy -- 1/07/2008 11:18 AM  

My wife also did not believe Clemens. And she's a die hard Yankee fan. For what its worth, I believed him, but I was predisposed to want to believe him.

OpenID amilst -- 1/07/2008 11:18 AM  

Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?? I myself, believe him - I've always considered Clemens to be a man of integrity, and know that he has worked hard all his life to achieve excellence. My belief is that his "training" did not include the use of steroids. I find it easier to believe him than to believe McNamee.

Blogger Sue -- 1/07/2008 4:23 PM  

Nothing I said in the post implicates "innocent until proven guilty." I made the simple point that, watching his testimony as if I were a member of the jury charged with deciding the case, I did not find him a credible witness, largely because of his demeanor. I have not seen all the evidence (beyond his testimony) on either side and I have never seen McNamee speak, so I have not formed an opinion as to his credibility.

Blogger Howard Wasserman -- 1/07/2008 7:06 PM  

For years, I've been placing the anabolic steroids v. cortisone distinction squarely within the good drug/bad drug frame.

Alcohol - good drug. Drink all you want.

Marijuana - bad drug. Smoking it makes you a bad person.

If you're shot up with enough painkiller to numb a small village, not only do we not see that as a moral problem, we view you as heroic. You're Kirk Gibson. You're Curt Schilling. You're gritty and gutty and an inspiration. Epidurals for everyone.

Steroids are immoral. Ask Lupica.

It isn't even that we frame it as a matter of degree - X amounts of painkiller v. Y amounts of steroids should be allowed/disallowed in the context of sport Any "rational discussion" of what drugs we'd make illegal in society or ban for use in a sport would have to recognize that these things exist on a continuum.

Instead - we vilify and deify.

Good guys/bad guys. The dual American frame. White hats and evildoers.

History won't think well of much of our ability to judge morality; a hundred years from now, Sports Illustrated will be seen as far more devious and culpable in this steroid "scandal" than will Barry Bonds.

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