Monday, January 7, 2008 Updated: January 8, 8:06 AM ET
We're not buying it, Roger
By Jemele Hill Page 2
You didn't believe that, did you?
Fraud-ger Clemens was about as believable as Michael Corleone when he tried to convince Kay he didn't kill Carlo.
Clemens did nothing to exonerate himself in his "60 Minutes" interview with Mike Wallace that aired Sunday night or in his overly defensive news conference Monday.
If this is all a lie, Roger Clemens risks a level of outrage, retribution and disgust that would put him in some pretty infamous company.
Anyone who has ever cheated in a relationship knows the best way to hide cheating is out in the open. That seems to be the defense Clemens is running.
Fraud-ger is acting like a man who is falsely accused. Key word here: acting. He is outraged (a month later) about being connected to performance-enhancing drugs through his former trainer, Brian McNamee, who told the feds and former Sen. George Mitchell he injected Clemens between 16 and 21 times with human growth hormone and steroids.
Now, Clemens is willing to tell his side (although he could have done that when Mitchell first approached) and he has filed a defamation suit against McNamee. He even came to his news conference with a trump card, playing a taped conversation for the media between him and McNamee.
Ultimately, that phone call and everything Clemens has done the last two days has been pointless. That phone call proved nothing, but added to the growing list of doubts about Clemens' innocence.
You'd think if a guy was trying to ruin your livelihood, Fraud-ger would have dropped a couple choice four- and 10-letter cuss words on him, or simply never have taken the call. You would think, at some point, Fraud-ger would have implored McNamee to tell the truth and wouldn't have given a care if McNamee's son was sick. Instead, Fraud-ger acted as if McNamee had borrowed a DVD and didn't return it.
So we are left with an act that is officially long past tiresome. See Fraud-ger's interview and ensuing news conference for what it was: compelling, but not very informative. He said little we hadn't already heard. All Clemens did was supply measurements -- as in exactly how much rope Clemens was going to use to hang himself.
But honestly, given what Fraud-ger stands to lose if McNamee's allegations are somehow proven true beyond its he-said-he-said nature, you can't blame Clemens for the all-out assault. Clemens' legacy and reputation are not only in jeopardy, but possibly completely unredeemable. This is a man who has peddled his values just as much as his fastball.
No one should have expected Fraud-ger to tear open his guts and tearfully admit that what McNamee said was true -- that Clemens had taken injections of steroids and human growth hormone to maintain his career.
Telling the truth never has been an option for Fraud-ger, given what he loses if McNamee's allegations are somehow proven true beyond their he-said-he-said nature. This is a man who has built his livelihood on not only being a dominant pitcher, but a good guy, a tough guy and a real American. He has sold his values just as much as his fastball.
If this is all a lie, Fraud-ger risks a level of outrage, retribution and disgust that would put him in some pretty infamous company. Many Americans want to believe Fraud-ger didn't do it. Unfortunately, he isn't giving them much to work with, alternately presenting doubt and hope.
I hope Fraud-ger understands his tirades not only have questioned McNamee's credibility, but the federal government's. He's inviting them to come after him. And if there is anything we've learned from the cases against Barry Bonds, Michael Vick and, heck, even Martha Stewart, the feds are more than willing to make an example out of those who mock them.
For the most part, Clemens has defended himself in such a baffling manner, it's difficult not to view this as an elaborate con.
Clemens told Wallace -- and Clemens' attorney Rusty Hardin reiterated this in the news conference -- that he wasn't sure taking a lie detector test would help. Funny, I thought the entire point of the test was to prove if someone is telling the truth. Unless Fraud-ger is Jason Bourne, why wouldn't people buy those results? Instead of giving himself another avenue of truth, Clemens seemed to be giving himself an out for either not taking the test or failing it.
Perhaps the most comical part of the interview with Wallace was when Clemens tried to argue that taking steroids and HGH would never have been beneficial to his career. So, Fraud-ger, you mean Jose Canseco, Rafael Palmeiro, Barry Bonds and the litany of other athletes who have been connected to performance-enhancing drugs are allegedly endangering their reputations for a product that doesn't pay off? HGH, which many doctors claim is akin to a fountain of youth, is reportedly being bought on the black market by at least dozens of athletes because it doesn't do anything?
Clemens says he couldn't have possibly been taking PEDs because his "tendons didn't turn to dust."
"If he's doing that to me, I should have a third ear coming out of my forehead," Clemens told Wallace. "I should be pulling tractors with my teeth."
Either Clemens thinks we're all stupid, or he's forgotten the information we've learned about steroids and HGH in the wake of so many athletes using those drugs. We are a far cry from the days of Lyle Alzado, who died from a brain tumor, though some (including Alzado himself) believe it was connected to his admitted steroid abuse. The BALCO scandal showed that athletes are able to operate quite comfortably on a carefully monitored drug cocktail. Besides, most of the baseball players caught with PEDs have been pitchers, and none of them had an extra ear or were dragging John Deeres.
Clemens reiterated Monday he didn't know Andy Pettitte took HGH, but that hardly passes the smell test. Your best friend, who used the same trainer as you, who worked out with you on a regular basis, took HGH and you had no idea?
Fraud-ger is in full blustering and hustling mode, but there is so much we don't know. Fact is, Fraud-ger has no credible answers for why, McNamee, a former police officer who we learn from the phone call clearly idolizes Clemens, would tell the truth about Pettitte, but lie about Clemens? Of all the hindparts to stick a needle in, why would McNamee point out Clemens'? What would he have to gain by fingering a man many consider to be the best pitcher ever?
Fraud-ger has no rational explanation for not talking to Mitchell when he had the chance. Fraud-ger claimed he had no idea he would be named in the report -- which is hard to believe since his name was previously connected in a newspaper report to the Jason Grimsley affidavit, albeit erroneously. Wouldn't you want to talk to Mitchell to clear up any possible misconceptions?
Brilliant of Clemens to turn the allegations against him into a sob story, telling Wallace he chewed the painkiller Vioxx "like Skittles," to help his team. Telling those at the news conference that he only reached out to McNamee because of his sick son. When he talked to Wallace, he also resorted to using one of the most over-used clichés because, frankly, Fraud-ger is in a bad spot.
"I don't know if I can defend myself," Clemens said. "I think people -- a lot of people have already made their decisions. And that's our country, isn't it? Guilty before innocence -- that's the way our country works now."
By the way, this is the same country that has made Clemens millions.
At this point, all we can expect from Fraud-ger are well-constructed lies disguised as genuine outrage. It's not like we haven't seen this before. Marion Jones held a teary-eyed news conference proclaiming her innocence, threatened to sue BALCO mastermind Victor Conte and even lied in her own autobiography before she finally admitted she took performance-enhancing drugs. Pete Rose maintained his charade for years before finally admitting he bet on his own team.
One thing Clemens said definitely was true. He said the Hall of Fame is the least of his concerns. He's right. He's playing a dangerous game of chicken. We'll see if he's bluffing.
Page 2 columnist Jemele Hill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.