Afternoon Story Time
Because Mike Francesa was on WFAN doing his Super Bowl quiz to give away two free tickets to the game and he was then going into regurgitated stories of Presidential Inaugurations past—-complete with the required embellishments to stories that may or may not be anywhere close to accurate—-I flipped onto The Michael Kay Show on ESPN Radio. The story of the day on that end of the dial was the upcoming Kirk Ramomski interview with Jeremy Schapp on Sunday. Radomski is beginning a publicity tour for a book that he has attached to his name regarding baseball’s performance enhancing drug scandal. Kay took this opportunity to go into a rant about Brian McNamee and Roger Clemens.
In Kay’s obtuse mind, Radomski is one of the main culprits of the introduction to steroids and HGH in the world of baseball. The fractured logic that Kay uses seems to imply that if Radomski hadn’t been in the Mets clubhouse, then there wouldn’t have been the number of players using the drugs. This is ridiculous on so many levels that it’s not even worth refuting, but the crux of the matter is that, like any drug dealer (or arms dealer or whatever dealer), they’re operating a business just like anyone else; that business relies on customers; if the businessman (in this case, Radomski) isn’t there, the clientele is going to find another source for his goods. Are you going to sit there and tell me that if Radomski wasn’t a provider of the goods that these major league players wouldn’t have been able to find a quacking, starstruck doctor to write them prescriptions for whatever they needed and formulate a series of canned symptoms to justify the use of the drugs if asked? It’s like blaming a gun for shooting someone; or McDonalds for a guy gaining 50 pounds after eating the food three times a week.
Then, Kay started in on Brian McNamee. While mentioning that he thinks Roger Clemens is lying and how he wished it weren’t so, Kay began a fictional account of what the participants were thinking in justifying their actions after the scandal came out. Regarding the Debbie Clemens issue of having been the one (according to Roger) to use HGH, Kay said that had that been him and McNamee was in the Clemens bedroom injecting (the double entiendre was part of the rant, intentionally or not) his wife, he would’ve “ripped McNamee’s head off”. Then after the investigators went to McNamee, Kay’s yarn extended to McNamee “wanting Clemens dead” for bringing McNamee’s son’s illness into the public eye and trying to discredit McNamee with the recorded conversation that was designed to prop up Clemens’s account, but actually made Clemens look worse.
No one can know what’s really going through the mind of Brian McNamee during this whole mess. If I were to come up with a scenario that’s more realistic and less melodramatic than that of Michael Kay, it would go something like this: McNamee was a flunky for Roger Clemens; he worked for him; did his bidding and got to make a good amount of money and use the relationship to further his own personal dealings. It was a cycle. McNamee worked with Clemens and Andy Pettitte, therefore McNamee was a training “expert” because he wouldn’t be working with such highly compensated athletes if he didn’t know what he was doing. Doing Clemens’s bidding meant acquiring the drugs that rejuvenated Clemens’s faltering career. When the investigators came to McNamee with the questions and evidence of Clemens’s complicity in the scandal, McNamee protected him until he was threatened with jail time if he didn’t come clean, and he did what he needed to do rather than continue to protect a guy who was more of a convenient business associate than friend.
The idea that Clemens was going to rip anyone’s head off is ignoring the way Clemens behaved throughout his career. Does anyone remember Clemens being a participant in one of the bench clearing fights that he started with his proclivity to throw the beanball? Whenever something happened Clemens was the epitome of the guy who starts a fight and is either hidden by a wall of teammates as he screamed over their heads at the other team, or if a fight did start, Clemens was crawling out from under the pile and heading for the nearest exit. Everything with Kay ends with him talking about how he grew up in a tough neighborhood and his resolution to any conflict is physical violence, but guys like Clemens who act like a tough cowboy but deep down have the constitution of wet toilet paper are always the strong, silent John Wayne-style tough guy until confronted with someone who’s ready to drop the gloves and throw their hands in the air, then the real Roger Clemens comes out.
People always wondered what would’ve happened had Mike Piazza charged Clemens in the World Series after Clemens heaved the broken bat toward Piazza; had Piazza not thought about the team and that they needed him in the game rather than getting ejected for getting into a fight. After the way Clemens has humiliated himself hiding behind his wife, lying, blaming everyone other than himself for his predicament, does anyone really wonder what would’ve happened? Clemens would’ve turned tail and ran because that’s what Roger Clemens does.
Kay’s fictional stories—-formulated while the actors in his play are distracted by their own issues—-is silly by itself, but when you wonder what Kay would say if these people were sitting in front of him, it becomes even more embarrassing. It’s easy to unload on someone when they’re nowhere near you and will probably never be anywhere near you, but what would be the reaction if there were ever a confrontation between the two? Would Kay pull a Chris Russo—-(Remember him? He used to be on the radio.)—-and hem, haw and provide alibis for his unwillingness to make his comments to the person directly?*
Russo was well-known for his cheap shots when he was safe in his studio, but when interviewing those people, he cowered in the corner and received well-earned ridicule. Last year’s Super Bowl was a prime example of this when he unleashed on Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson for not playing in the AFC Championship Game and proceeded to bury his face in Tomlinson’s butt during the interview and not even ask about the Championship Game. When called on it by callers regarding the matter, Russo acknowldged that he’d done a “bad job”, but added the embarrassingly nonsensical caveat that Tomlinson had a bodyguard behind him and Russo wasn’t sure if said bodyguard was armed. So he thought that he was going to get shot if he asked a couple of tough questions and stood by what he said when he was in his studio?
It’s not easy to make these courageous, opinionated statements when the object of those statements is standing in front of you—-I don’t know how I’d react if I were in that situation, but nor do I take cheap shots as Russo did—-but if you want to have any credibility and stand by your convictions, you have to engage these people directly rather than using the studio as a protective cloak.
This whole episode is absurd. Everyone knows that Roger Clemens is desperately trying to save his place in history and fighting a losing battle. McNamee—-a squirrelly, hunched and furtive-looking character—-is easy to question. He’s had various character issues for years, but Clemens isn’t exactly this bastion of character himself as has been proven by the dirty laundry that’s been aired since this whole thing started; and his reactions to the entire mess has diminished to nothing the sense of honor he tried to portray throughout his career even if his teammates snickered at the hypocrisy of the public face (and in Clemens’s defense, his teammates have always loved him and considered him a good teammate).
The idea that these fictional accounts created by the likes of Michael Kay as a way of defending Clemens and promulgating Kay’s self-created rough-and-tumble image are in any way accurate is similar to a young boy formulating a cover story for a broken window to protect a friend, except most boys grow out of the storytelling stage and take things as they are (if they have any form of intelligence), unfortunately Kay hasn’t gotten to that point yet and if history is a judge, presumably never will.
Clemens made his own mess and no amount of bad fiction is going to repair it because he’s been caught; he’s cornered and he’s still not man enough to admit what he did; the idea that he has convinced himself that he didn’t do anything wrong is an O.J. Simpson-style defense of “it’s not my fault”; Clemens knows what he did; he perjured himself; he dragged his wife into this; he ruined his reputation not by using the drugs (as most everyone else in baseball evidently was), but by lying; no matter how shady McNamee, Radomski and whoever else is involved in this is, nothing’s going to change that and that’s no story; that’s fact.