Breaking Balls: The travesty of USA vs. William Roger Clemens

I promise to tell the truth, the partial truth and nothing close to the truth … and to live long and prosper. (Reuters)

In this troubling economic climate, with people all over the country turning their focus to just what it is that local, state and federal governments are doing with their tax dollars, it seems like a waste of time and resources to spend millions of dollars pursuing legal action against a retired baseball player who was trying to cover his butt.

Roger Clemens was recently found not guilty of taking steroids. No, wait. He was found not guilty of lying about taking steroids. So, he is an innocent man – vindicated. And like former U.S. Secretary of Labor Ray Donovan asked after he was acquitted for fraud, “Which office do I go to get my reputation back?”

Not so fast, Roger. I think we all know there’s a huge difference between “not guilty” and “innocent.” There are still questions about whether or not he took steroids and whether or not he lied about it.

And if Roger Clemens is guilty of anything, it’s using steroids and lying about it.

However, the real question here is whether or not anyone actually gives a crap? The trial itself was titled USA vs. William Roger Clemens. Yes, we as a nation were disappointed to hear that Roger may have been involved in performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs); and that he may have lied about his involvement; and, most disturbingly, that his first name is William. But, did we as a nation need to know for certain whether Roger Clemens lied to a Congressional Committee and then need him to go to jail for having done so?

First of all, the irony of Congressional members accusing someone of lying is a constant source of humor for me. Maybe they were just angry that Roger was encroaching on their turf. “Hey, Roger, you play baseball and leave the dishonesty and misrepresentation to us.”

Second, the sports media has been jamming this stuff down our throats in some apparent attempt to make up for the fact that they sat by and did nothing while all the players were juicing up. “The players were cheating! How dare they?!” exclaims the media that covers up stories to protect their advertisers and engages in sensationalism instead of news reporting to increase their precious ratings.

As a side note, this website is technically part of the media and this is the only column on this entire site about this issue. Because it’s a fan-oriented site and the fans don’t care. The steroid era happened. So, what?

“But what about the children, Jed?” proclaims some politician who wants you to think he cares about children but is really just trying to garner a few more votes in the next election because he was the guy who cared about the children that one time.

In Texas, legislation was introduced a few years ago to test high school athletes for PED use to make sure those feeble-minded kids weren’t following down the dark path of their unscrupulous idols. For a mere $3 million a year, they were able to do 50,000 random drug tests which came back with 21 (yes, twenty-one) positive results. Just a reminder: $3 million a year. However, for the politicians who got to grandstand about the dangers and the morality, it was worth every penny … to them.

And with all this uproar about the morality and the dangers and the lying and the children(!), there are more players in the league who have been arrested for drunk driving than there are players who have been suspended for using banned substances. Drunk drivers are also very hazardous to the health of children — well, the ones that aren’t quick.

Some scientific studies (not mentioned by the media) have made claims that performance-enhancing drugs actually don’t have this super-human transformative effect that we all are taught to believe. The studies do indicate that PEDs can speed recovery from injuries. Well, that doesn’t sound much like cheating to me. When players wear casts to help their bones heal, that’s not cheating.

This particular view on steroids sounds boring – and boring will not sell newspapers or increase TV ratings or website views. I kind of like the idea of the absolute best players in the world recovering quickly from injuries and returning to the field. The more I see of Matt Kemp and Jacoby Ellsbury and the less I see of Tony Gwynn, Jr. and Brent Lillibridge, the better.

I’m not saying that players who used PEDs are righteous dudes or that they should just be allowed to do whatever they want. But there is a lot of money at stake in professional sports. The players are going to keep trying to get an edge over the competition with exercise, diets, supplements — anything and everything. If chewing on tire rubber or drinking Peruvian yak pee will make someone stronger or faster, players will try it. Amphetamines (and a slew of other stimulants) were recently added to the list of banned substances. And then, coincidentally, players suddenly had a significant spike in medical “exemptions” for treatment of their Attention Deficit Disorders – the “treatment” for which is Ritalin and Adderall. Both of these are stimulants.

For all citizens, Marijuana – an illegal drug – is “legal” if you follow the guidelines. However, there are 20 medical marijuana shops here in San Diego, Ca within a five-minute drive from me. There’s a good chance that not everyone who has a “medical marijuana card” actually has a medical condition — unless you consider that “wanting to get high” is a medical condition.

Me? Shifty? C’mon!

It is in everyone’s competitive nature to look for loopholes or shortcuts to help them win and, conversely, to try to eliminate loopholes and shortcuts that others are exploiting. Some baseball players have been accused of exploiting various loopholes in the league’s drug policy with PED use and, for various reasons, have lied about it when asked directly.

When Roger was asked about PED use while under oath, he denied it. It’s the “under oath” part that gets this all sticky. But everyone was denying it — over and over. But how can you prove that anyone lied about anything? It’s usually just one guy’s word against another’s. Roger’s former trainer, Brian McNamee, says Roger is lying. Roger says that not only is Brian a liar, but his pants are on fire. And that’s how we spend millions of dollars and end up with a not guilty verdict.

And really, the only thing this media coverage and prosecution really accomplished was making Roger Clemens look like a jerk. But, most of us already didn’t like Roger. So, I guess, now he’s a little bit more of a jerk.

In the end, what do we have to show for all our time and money? Nothing. Baseball players (and football players and basketball players and cyclists and swimmers) will never stop seeking the competitive edge. Now, maybe some will feel slightly less inclined to perjure themselves while under oath. Or maybe they just won’t be so eager to show up.

And the government proved that it can waste money on over-the-hill ballplayers just like any other team in the league.

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