The Rocket is looking through rose-colored glasses

Last week, Roger Clemens went on ESPN radio to defend himself against allegations written in a recently released book, American Icon. He once again denied that his former trainer Brian McNamee had injected him with any form of performance-enhancing drugs and his former teammate, Andy Pettitte, still “misremembered” their conversation on steroids.

And at the conclusion of the interview, you could slowly see Clemens turning into Pete Rose. Both determined to bully the public into believing their innocence, with the hopes of clearing their name and reputation.

After being banished from baseball in the summer of 1989, Rose would go on various interview shows to vehemently deny the allegations brought against him. He would laugh at the suggestion that a meeting took place between outgoing baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth, incoming commissioner Bart Giamatti, and himself to discuss his gambling habits. That was his story and he stuck to it until 2004, when Rose took the money and wrote a tell-all book about his baseball gambling exploits. He wanted to beat baseball executives on their playing field, but it wasn’t game to them.

Clemens hired a media marketing firm that assists high-profile clients through PR crises, and they suggested getting his side of the story out to the press. Bad move. He said that it would be suicidal for him to take steroids with his family history of heart trouble. Clemens said that heart disease took the life of his stepdad and older brother. Hey, wait a minute! How can you inherit a genetic trait from your stepfather?

Clemens brought attention to a book that otherwise wouldn’t have received any media attention. Unfortunately, he sees this as a competition and challenges anyone to prove him guilty of steroid usage. Last year, Clemens told major league baseball to effectively “kiss his ass” following the release of the Mitchell Report. McNamee offers syringes with his DNA as evidence of steroid usage, and Clemens in turn files a defamation of character lawsuit against him. His competitive personality will eventually do him in.

A person is presumed innocent until proven guilty, but just like Barry Bonds, the general public has convicted Clemens of using performance-enhancing drugs. And if he follows Rose’s script, the Rocket will eventually admit to his usage in a book deal a few years down the road. Assuming he needs the money, of course.

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Why does nobody care about the steroid problem in the NFL?

Allen Barra of The Wall Street Journal wrote a fantastic article about the steroid problem in the NFL and why fans ignore it while they crucify baseball for the very same issue.

First, there’s the matter of statistics. The argument goes that baseball fans take stats very seriously and thus are spurred to action when performance-enhancing drugs taint the record books, while football fans are much less concerned about steroids and other such substances given that football has no identifiable statistical benchmarks such as Hank Aaron’s 755 career home runs or Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. Only a few players on a team of 22 starters in football really have any stats.

Prof. Yesalis believes the statistical argument to be largely a creation of the media: “I think it’s sportswriters who care about records being broken. I don’t think the average fans really care all that much. They view sports mostly as entertainment.” But Bob Costas disagrees. “I don’t know about the average fan, but judging from the reaction to Barry Bonds’s surpassing Aaron’s home run record, a great many fans do care, and if they don’t think the competition is legitimate, they’re liable to seek their entertainment elsewhere.”

Whether or not most fans care, the fact is that it’s only when players like Bonds achieve certain statistical milestones that the question of performance-enhancing drugs comes into focus; what statistics do we have for offensive linemen in football?

For that matter, who notices offensive or defensive linemen at all? While experts have long acknowledged that linemen (whose average weight has increased by nearly 90 pounds over the past quarter century) are the primary users of bulk-up substances, most fans never get to see the faces of the players down in the trenches. Defensive linemen might not even get their names mentioned more than once or twice a game when they make a spectacular play like a quarterback sack, and offensive linemen almost never get their names announced on TV.

Every baseball fan knew Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, and other star players who testified in congressional hearings, but if even the best-known linemen were to sit in front of the microphone, their staunchest fans might be getting a good look at their faces for the first time.

Do yourself a favor and read the rest of the article, because it goes into how the NFL isn’t under the threat of losing its exemption from antitrust laws like MLB was.

Constantly hammering baseball because of its steroid problem, but giving football a free pass for the same issue might be the most hypocritical thing we fans do right now. And I’m as guilty as anyone. I have no problem chastising Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens because they (supposedly) doped, but when it comes to football, I’ll check my fantasy stats 34 times before I dare look into something even semi-steroid related. And I think that’s because I’m like any red-blooded American – I want to believe that my beloved weekend football is on the up and up when it comes to players using performance-enhancing drugs. But it clearly is not.

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