National view: Jaded about sports figures? Join the club
O.J. Simpson got away with it. Bill Clinton got away with it, sort of. When asked whether he had sex with Monica Lewinsky, he said he never had sex with that woman. And he was impeached, not convicted. President George W. Bush told us there were ...
O.J. Simpson got away with it.
Bill Clinton got away with it, sort of. When asked whether he had sex with Monica Lewinsky, he said he never had sex with that woman. And he was impeached, not convicted.
President George W. Bush told us there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq ... but none were ever found.
So how are we to take the statements by Roger Clemens that he never took steroids or human growth hormone? He did a videotaped denial for CBS' "60 Minutes" and even has said he'll take questions from reporters.
Excuse me if I've become jaded from all the statements that turned out to be false by celebrities in the past. But how could any of us not be? Denial. Denial. Denial. It has become the American way. If you say it's not true, no matter how bad the "it" may be, you have a chance of getting away with it.
I feel sympathy for a seemingly decent person such as Andy Pettitte, another New York Yankees pitcher, who has said that, yes, he did use human growth hormone twice when he was trying to recover from an elbow injury. And his trainer, the person who made the allegations, was the same individual who worked for years with Pettitte's good buddy Clemens.
I'll be the first to admit that putting the baseball steroids scandal in the same column as a murder and a president's lying under oath is stretching things a bit. In fact, as much of a sports fan as I am, there always has been a part of me that is uncomfortable with sports on the front page of a newspaper. It's mixing fantasy with reality.
Sports is a make-believe world. To me, it's an escape from the deadly consequences of tragedies, wars and conflict that make real news. One of my earliest journalist heroes, sportswriter Jimmy Cannon, would write two or three columns a year on why he loved sports: because they really didn't matter. The results didn't mean somebody would be killed or maimed or wind up in jail. But still, a game or a match is a real contest, a test of wills, and the outcome is unknown. It's the proper forum for competition and conflict, he said. That's the part that fascinates me.
Obviously I'm exposing a certain naivete -- sports are also a multibillion-dollar business. I understand that, but am not very interested in it.
A lot of friends and acquaintances have been asking me how I feel about the steroids scandal and, especially, about the accusation against Clemens. My answer? I would love to believe Clemens' denials. Wouldn't it be great if he pitched like this into his 40s because of hard work and God-given talent? Wouldn't it be great if he were a real sports hero?
But I have a bad feeling about it and his stonewalling. And, besides, a real story, about human greed and weakness, has intruded on my make-believe world. Too bad.
James Klurfeld is a professor of journalism at Stony Brook University, which is about 65 miles east of New York City.