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July 14, 2011

BP Unfiltered

Clean Clemens?

by Chris St. John

Today, Roger Clemens’ perjury trial was declared a mistrial, due to some evidence added by the prosecution that was already deemed inadmissible. Apparently. That’s what Craig Calcaterra tells me, and I trust him. I know basically nothing about courtroom stuff, besides what I learned at Boys State and a fake trial in Social Studies class in 9th grade*. But I do know I have some thoughts about Roger Clemens.

*I was the judge and I don’t remember what the case was about or what the verdict was, but I do remember not allowing a “police officer” to testify about blood spatter because he wasn’t an expert. I’m all about taking advantage of any power I am given.

I grew up in a family of six (now seven) people, none of whom cared one iota about sports. In fact, the closest my family got to sports was when my sister played volleyball in middle school. We didn’t have a television, and we didn’t play sports as a family. However, there was an old man who lived down the street from us named Tommy Thompson (not the former governor of Wisconsin) who for whatever reason decided to give his entire collection of baseball cards to me and my brothers. Neither of my brothers cared for them as much as I did, though. I would sort and re-sort the cards, first by player name, then by team, then by year, and I would read the back of them. I was astonished at even the thought of placing them in my bike spokes, for fear of ruining them beyond repair. Bret Saberhagen and Tom Brunansky were among my favorites, simply because they kept showing up in the decks.

For many years, baseball cards were my only connection to baseball, apart from listening to Brewers games on the radio. In fact, when I read “The Red Sox Brunansky” on the back of one of the cards, I literally thought, “Oh, does every team have a player named Tom Brunansky?” Maybe that was a function of my naivete in general and not simply my ignorance of baseball. In Wisconsin, police officers would hand out decks of Brewers baseball cards in an effort to create a positive public image. Every summer, I would run up (carefully) to the first one I saw and ask him (politely) for a pack. Since no one else in my family wanted to play sports, I would take a tennis ball and throw it at a basketball backboard in order to play catch with myself. It probably looked ridiculously silly, but I’m pretty good at catching now, at least.  The only time I actually played baseball was in a youth softball summer league, which remains one of my favorite memories from childhood.

Which leads me to Roger Clemens. For some reason I became obsessed with Clemens at a young age after reading the backs of his baseball cards. I’m led to believe it was because of his high strikeout totals, because I also loved Nolan Ryan and Bert Blyleven. However, I used to hate Randy Johnson, as I always saw him as Clemens’ nemesis. My parents knew about my obsession with Clemens and bought me one of his cards for my birthday one year, which solidified my Clemens infatuation for the rest of my life. Whenever I sorted my baseball cards, I made sure to take out all of the ones with Clemens on them. I didn’t dare place them in the red boxes with all the other cards—no, they got to go in the special gray plastic box (yes, they’re still there).

Whatever team Clemens was on became my favorite. First I was a Red Sox fan. Then a Blue Jays fan. Then a Yankes fan. Now that I’m a Rays fan, I’ve almost covered the entire AL East. I didn’t like the retire/un-retire thing, so I didn’t follow him as much with the Astros. I bought a jersey for every team he played for and put them up on my bedroom wall. I’ve also felt a slight connection to him, since his first full year was 1986—the year I was born. For a majority of my baseball-following career, Clemens was my life           .

The steroid accusations really began to surface while I was in high school; however, Clemens seemed to be safe from all of them. I would always speak about his work ethic and how he didn’t need to take drugs because he worked so hard and would never take the easy way out. Also, the accusations were focused on power hitters and not power pitchers, so the heat wasn’t directed toward him. But if anyone dared challenge him, by God I was ready to defend. Everything seemed to die down, though and everything was right between Clemens and me. He would eventually stop un-retiring, get inducted to the Hall of Fame and legitimize my life-long interest in his career.

Until 2008. I was in the middle of college at this point and my interest in baseball had dwindled. Most of the players I followed growing up were either retired or in the twilight of their careers. But apparently this steroid story kept coming up, to the point that Congress became involved. I’m not sure when I heard that Clemens was asked to testify, but I’m sure my reaction was “Oh, they just want to find out what he knows about other players.” Then, when I found out that people thought he was using them and that they were accusing him of lying to them about it, I thought, “Oh, this is just a witch hunt to get at someone famous,” but I wanted to know the truth. Now, this has been brought to the trial which was declared a mistrial today, and I still have the same desire. I just want to know the truth.

Clemens has been mentioned in the Mitchell Report, something I know embarrassingly little about. He has stated that he voluntarily went to the congressional hearing just to clear his name. If he didn’t take steroids or HGH, this is all a waste of time and money. If he did, he lied under oath and should be punished, just like anyone else.

Now, I’m not one to hold a grudge or judge. In fact, I don’t even care about performance-enhancing drugs. Mark McGwire confessed he took them. Barry Bonds says he didn’t (at least knowingly). Manny Ramirez retired, probably because of them. I honestly don’t care. If I were in the same situation that they were, how can I say I wouldn’t have done the same thing? PEDs and HGH mean nil to me. Except when it comes to Roger Clemens. Did he take them? Did he lie? Did he…cheat? My 24-year old self doesn’t care. But my seven-year old self needs to know.

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