Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Clemens Story is Bad for the Insides

There's been a post building inside for quite some time now but it has been difficult to bring it out because it is painful. Anyone who makes a living writing understands the feeling of having something that needs to come out but makes us cower and cringe until it can't be withheld anymore. Anna Nalick already penned the feeling exactly in her haunting song, "Breathe (2 A.M.)":
"...2 AM and I'm still awake, writing a song if I get it all
down on paper, it's no longer inside of me, threatening the life it belongs

The Roger Clemens fiasco is the post and anyone (or you few) who have followed this blog for a long time has an idea of where the Fan had Clemens placed in his iconography. Then one day a little over a year ago, the trophy shelf collapsed and the icon shattered like fine porcelain hitting the dining room floor.

The feeling was exactly the same as the day when we all turned on our television sets and saw that white Ford Bronco in that absurd ride down the California freeway and a whole childhood of worshipping O. J. Simpson vanished into thick, smoggy air. We all knew immediately that Simpson was guilty. We all knew. We still know. And though we mock him and deride him and were all secretly glad his little fiasco in Las Vegas finally put him where he belonged, despite the jeers and the smug satisfaction, there was still a little boy inside sadly wearing Number 32 and remembering the thrill ride of all those runs to glory.

That same little boy inside remains for most of us, even when we are on the other side of 50. That same little boy wonders why Clemens couldn't just come clean and tell his story. This is a country that loves to knock our heroes to the ground. But we love just as much to forgive them, wrap them back up in our arms and cheer them on again. Clemens didn't follow the example of his one-time, best friend, Andy Pettitte. Though Pettitte threatens that forgiveness with his stubborn refusal of $10 measly million, he was pardoned and we could cheer him on again.

Clemens apparently has decided to go down the same road already tread by Pete Rose and Richard Nixon. We knew they were guilty. We knew they were caught red-handed. If they had just drooped their shoulders and copped to their crimes, they would have been forgiven and life would have gone on. But, whether it is because they felt they had too much to lose or because their pride would not allow them to show flaws, they held on to the lies and held on tightly until there was no place for them to go.

And thus, Richard Nixon lost the White House and Pete Rose only shows up at Cooperstown to hawk signed baseballs when a simple little plea of: "Yup, I admit it," would have left them plenty of room for ultimate public redemption. And now, one of the most celebrated pitchers of the last one hundred years is having his name removed from hospital wings and is being banished even by the charities he used to support.

The sorrow isn't for Clemens or Nixon or Rose. They sowed their own seeds as did Simpson, Bonds, fallen Olympians and the Governor of New York. The sorrow is for the little boy who wanted to cry when Clemens gave his Hall of Fame speech.

And while we're on this subject, let's reflect a moment on the last three Hall of Fame votes in which Mark McGwire continues to sink in votes. The magical year in which McGwire hit his seventy home runs came after labor problems and probably did a lot to bring the fans back to the game. For this writer, it was even more personal as McGwire's heroics came right after a gut-wrenching divorce. That stupendous Labor Day weekend filled this writer with tears of joy that were unbelievably needed in those most painful of days. It gave a fallen and disheartened man a reason to be a little boy again. That same inner little boy that baseball has sustained for a lifetime.

And again, the boy is sad as McGwire's heroics are tarnished and discounted even though, by all accounts, McGwire was and is a decent man. The love he shared those days with his son could not be faked by steroids and it brought around the circle of fathers to sons that baseball has always generated.

At least McGwire didn't lie. But if he had just come clean and told his story straight up, he still may not have gotten into the Hall of Fame because some grumpy old men lost their inner little boys a long time ago. But the rest of us would embrace him and feel better about the emotions we let loose on that magical Labor Day Weekend.

And so we will continue to watch the Shakespearean play work itself out. The snake and tempter, McNamee, gets to shriek with glee as he continues to pull the Rocket down while McNamee gets a slap on the wrist. And we may even watch as Andy Pettitte, that old best friend, becomes the man who sends that former friend to prison. It didn't have to be this way. The little boy wishes with a lifetime of emotions that it could end in any other way.


Bill said...

This little boy of the little boy mentioned above, wants to say that he feels the same way. I remember that magical 98 season, when my passion, baseball, found life again. And so did it help a father and son walk throug equally, related, but different turbulent times. It gave us something to talk about when things could have been akward.
As for Clemens, I was raised a diehard Yankees fan, but I grew up in New England, so I saw a lot of red sox games. I couldn't help but have heroes from that "hated team". Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, Jim (about time the Hall let him in) Rice, were those guys. So imagine my happiness when two of the three donned yankees uniforms and helped them win world series. Now I sit and watch as one of my trifectas legacies falls apart. It's gut wrenching to be honest. One thing that should be remebered though, as tough as it is to see our heroes fall, it still can't take away the joy their moments in the past gave you, those moments may have been fleeting, but sometimes they meant the world.

Josh Borenstein said...

What's really sad about these ongoing sagas with Clemens, Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, and Palmeiro is that they all would have had great careers without cheating. As it is, their legacies have been irreparably destroyed. Maybe some day, they'll be forgiven. But the dark cloud that hangs over all of them will never be forgotten.