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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.