14 February 2008

Bleeding



They said it was great drama, but by the time I flipped on C-Span's tape of Waxman's assembly, waxing and whining Wednesday evening, I nearly fell asleep. I guess it's drama if one doubts whether Clemens is innocent, or if yesterday's hearing clarified any facts.

Prior to the hearing, we knew Brian McNamee was a shady, compromised lackey with a long history of lying back to his days as one of New York's ostensibly finest. Not quite a drug pusher, he was an unapologetic drug dealer catering to elite athletes. That was his life. But his claims about injecting Andy Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch have been corroborated, and any motive to falsely accuse Roger Clemens is unclear. What did we learn about Roger Clemens that escaped attention across twenty odd years, the Mitchell Report or 60 Minutes? Well, apparently his ass has been bleeding for years and the large growth on it is inconsistent with B-12 shots but symptomatic of Winstrol, according to an independent specialist. The hearing was framed as a case where both McNamee and Clemens couldnt possibly be telling the truth. Fair enough, but it's also clear both principles have obfuscated the truth repeatedly; withholding evidence, adjusting stories,etc.

Are these hearings bad for baseball, or a necessary price to pay for the game to regain credibility and grow into a greater pastime? Shedding light on PEDs, specifically, seems like a healthy long term development, but something more ominous is being exposed in tandem during these hearings, something more damaging than even the collective drug revelations themselves - and that is baseball's entrenched culture of lying. Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmiero and Roger Clemens have been compromising the truth for so long, in so many ways, to so many people that either they've rationalized away what the truth is, or have consciously decided that it just doesnt make sense to suddenly come clean, not even before federal authorities. There's too much at stake. Careers. Money. Immortality. Why voluntarily forfeit all that on a Wednesday afternoon after you've successfully hoodwinked a gawking American public and its prying media for more than a decade? And those three are just the tip of baseball's berg.

These guys arent worthy of harsh moral judgement for using PEDs - and if they harbor some disdain for Congress or "the process", I share that - but in light of depositions and emerging facts, the convoluted defiance of someone like Clemens, before the American people, is still astonishing. Memo to Roger: 1. The landscape is changing rapidly. 2. It's not the crime, it's the cover up.

How pervasive is the culture of lying in baseball? It's pervasive enough so that Andy Pettitte, who topped off years of public deception by understating the extent of his own PED use to investigators, is now heralded by some as a hero. He is not, but the point is that all MLB players, users and non-users, are trapped in a culture where telling the whole truth carries unusually high costs - a culture where it makes more sense to cheat or condone cheating, and lie or condone lying than it does to clear the air with their customers, the American public.

This isn't peculiar to baseball. Withholding information and self interested lying are de rigueur in many organizations. Business, politics, military. What is peculiar, however, is that many of us harbor illusions about baseball as a qualitative escape from those "real-world" institutions. That's why this incremental exposure of MLB's disregard for the truth may harm baseball more than any future positive drug tests, confessions or guilty verdicts. We expect baseball to provide a respite from the world, yet what fans see is depressingly familiar, extending well beyond ilicit performance enhancement. The underbelly of a quintessentially American culture, a bastion of good clean entertainment with strong heroic undertones, is on display, and to this observer, baseball is not merely falling short of fans' lofty expectations - it is being exposed, little by little, as a deeply corrupt enterprise.




(photos courtesy of Susan Walsh & Jose Luis Magana/AP & thenastyboys.wordpress.com )

8 comments:

Michael Norton said...

Mark,

I sensed the same thing watching the hearing--as if something far deeper and darker than the abuse of performance enhancing substances was being revealed in all its monstrosity. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but you've pointed it out: the culture of deception.

As you well know, I discovered that same phenomena at MLBlogs. What set me off on my latest rampage was Mr. MLBlogs Mark Newman lying to my face, even as I knew for a fact he was lying. He tried the same bluster tactics as Clemens, Bonds, et. al. When I demanded to speak to Newman's boss, he lied again: "I have no boss"!

Selig, of course, is a consummate liar. Integrity of the game? That, as you so eloquently point out, is still in question, indeed is the question.

Michael Norton - Some Clubhouse
http://mlblog.someclubhouse.com

Anonymous said...

Matt-welcome back (of sorts); totally right about Pettite, he is as guilty as anyone but seems to be portrayed as some kind of hero.

Anonymous said...

i would like to say that it was not my intention to remian anonymous-just my inability to work out the log in page for this site-russell

Matt said...

Michael, Welcome to my new lair! I'm pleased to have the comments section christened by an old friend.

Hi Russell,
Glad you found me! I think the "Name/URL" comment option might work best.

btw, Russell pens a witty, irreverent D-Backs blog >> http://arizonaviaslough.mlblogs.com

Tracy said...

So this is where you've been hanging out all winter!

Hey, I listened to 20 minutes of your podcast over there on DTLFL - enduring your use of words like "penetration" and "dichotomy" - before I realized it was a FORTY minute interview and not FOUR. I should have packed a lunch first. Your reputation, like Clemens', is now forever tarnished. You sound halfway intelligent! :-)

Matt said...

Drat, busted again! As far as I know, "dichotomy" is a medical procedure involving lesbians - and "penetration" - well, it's all Greek to me ;-)

Actually, Kellia & I were just ruing the epic length too, but if you listened to half the podcast and I sounded halfway intelligent, that seems about right ;-)

You should have Kellia interview you! It's fun - and the world aches for your dulcet stylings :-)

Tracy said...

As usual, Matt, you are way ahead of the curve. :-)

Pettitte tells lies, hears cheers

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