Roger Clemens As Coward

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There were whispers about Clemens using steroids prior to the Mitchell Report. However, with no proof, the sports media never spoke of it on air. Why slander a man that is a hero to so many fans if you don’t have proof? That of course was not the case for Bonds.

[The Big Story]

The application of power and fairness in our legal system and in our culture is often perceived and applied differently.

Public perception is often shaped by prosecutors and how they decide to prosecute a case, as well as editors and how they present information regarding certain cases. This is particularly true when race is involved, or perceived to be involved.

I was recently reminded of this when the Mitchell Report looking at the drug scandal plaguing baseball was released. The report, a 20 month examination of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball was commissioned by MLB and Bud Selig, its commissioner. The report named many prominent current and former players that had allegedly used performance enhancing drugs.

When I compare the general reaction to the Mitchell Report by many in the sports media and weigh it against their sustained attack against Barry Bonds, in spite of the fact that none of them had any definitive proof of steroid use by Bonds, I was reminded of other incidents where the application of power and fairness seem to be different, depending on who is being accused.

A famous Hollywood figure is accused of murdering a beautiful blonde woman. The evidence against him is overwhelming. Yet, somehow, despite the preponderance of evidence, the jury miraculously was unable to reach a verdict. How could the jury fail to have reached a conclusion? How was the defense able to establish reasonable doubt? The jury had doubts about the manner in which Los Angeles police handled the forensic evidence gathered at the crime scene.

Sound familiar?

No, I’m not talking about O.J. Simpson. I’m talking about Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Phil Spector. Spector’s nationally televised trial for the February 2003 shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson ended in a hung jury. Clarkson was found shot to death in Spector’s Beverly Hills mansion. As a result of that hung jury is that Phil Spector is now a free man while the prosecutor decides whether or not to retry the case.

Spector is free in spite of the fact that at least three women that he had previously dated testified that Spector had pointed loaded guns at them. There was also a taped confession Spector made to the police. He told them that he had accidentally killed somebody.

Spector’s defense team tried unsuccessfully to get that confession stricken from the records. Finally, there was the testimony of one of Spector’s chauffeurs that Spector emerged from the rear door of his mansion, with gun in hand and told him, “I think I just killed somebody.”

Where was the national outrage? Where were the calls for changes to the legal system? Where were the insults to the intelligence of the jury?

Twelve years after O.J., the general public still doesn’t understand that many Black people were not celebrating O.J.’s acquittal because of their affection for him, or their belief in his innocence.

It was the fact that for the first time, the public was seeing the flaws in the legal system that Blacks have been victimized by for years, only this time those same flaws benefited a Black defendant.

Based upon a recent history of white police officers in cities such as Los Angeles, Detroit, Philadelphia and Chicago planting evidence on innocent Black men in order to get convictions, jurors in the O.J. trial could relate to O.J.’s defense teams claim of reasonable doubt, even though many whites were looking at the O.J. trial as proof of injustice in our society.

They even went so far as to redefine the expression, “playing the race card”. After O.J., the mainstream media began using that phrase to describe Black people relying on race to escape responsibility, instead of its true meaning of white politicians using race to stir up white constituents. I don’t think the national media has ever tried to articulate or even acknowledge the Black point of view as it pertains to O.J.

Now we have the Mitchell Report and the same sports media that has dogged Barry Bonds for years is being extremely cautious in calling Roger Clemens a “cheat.” Much of the evidence in the report came from former Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski and former Yankees’ strength coach Brian McNamee, who said he personally saw illegal drug use by Clemens and Andy Pettitte. McNamee even claims that he personally injected Clemens.

Clemens has been admired for his off season regimen and dedication to the game for years. Clemens has 7 Cy Young Awards and is eighth on the all-time win list with 354 victories. Fans and the sports media have marveled at how Clemens, at age 45, could still throw a baseball almost 100mph.

There were whispers about Clemens using steroids prior to the Mitchell Report. However, with no proof, the sports media never spoke of it on air. Why slander a man that is a hero to so many fans if you don’t have proof?

That of course was not the case for Bonds. I recall one of the first anti-Bonds articles back in 2001. It was a piece in Sports Illustrated by Rick Reilly. In it, Reilly describes Bonds as a selfish player who constantly separates himself from his teammates. “Someday they’ll be able to hold Bond’s funeral in a fitting room,” Reilly writes.

From then on, it seemed to me that it was almost illegal for the sports media to say something positive about Bonds. More articles came out about how much of a jerk Bonds was. He was not very accessible to the media and when he was, he wasn’t very pleasant to deal with.

The media also started asking Bonds about steroid use as far back as 2003. However, it was in 2006, after Sports Illustrated published excerpts of the book “Game of Shadows” that the sports media labeled Bonds’ performance the result of steroid use, even though Bonds had never failed a drug test, nor had any proof of his steroid usage surfaced. Like Clemens, there were only whispers and second-hand reports. However, unlike the benefit of the doubt now given to Clemens, Bonds was labeled a steroid user by the media.

I’m not about to get into whether or not Barry Bonds used steroids. I trust that the truth will eventually come to light. I’m also not going to claim that the sports media has attacked Bonds, while taking a “let’s not jump to conclusions” attitude with Clemens because Bonds is Black and Clemens is white. I don’t believe that.

The racism at play here is much more subtle. Many people, Black and white, have found Barry Bonds to be an insufferable jerk. He is said to be self-centered, inconsiderate and at times, rude. Just like the rest of us, some athletes are nice, some are jerks, some are introverts and some are extroverts.

I believe the racism at play is that Black athletes aren’t given the luxury of being jerks. Black athletes are always complimented on their smile. For years Madison Avenue didn’t believe that white people would buy products from Black athletes.

In commercials, to soften the image of big Black men to the white audience, Black athletes are often paired with white children. Remember the “Mean” Joe Greene coke commercial where he gave his jersey to the little white kid? That was ground-breaking.
During the 1998 single season home run race between Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa, both of whom have been accused of steroid use, McGuire, a white player, wasn’t particularly kind to the media. He was often impatient. The constant talk of breaking Roger Maris’ record was an obvious irritant to McGuire and he wasn’t shy about letting it be known. It wasn’t until Sammy Sosa, a Black Dominican started bringing some joy to the race for the record that McGuire lightened up. McGuire’s attitude never affected the media’s positive coverage of him.

So what if Bonds is a jerk? He has that right. Maybe the person that the sports media sees as a jerk is the son and godson of men who played professional baseball at its highest level. Maybe as a child, Barry witnessed reporters not give the respect to his father, Bobby Bonds and his godfather, Willie Mays that they deserved. Maybe little Barry heard his father and godfather discuss their unfair treatment by the media in private and vowed never to let that happen to him.

I’ve always thought of Roger Clemens as a jerk. He never hesitates to throw at a guy, yet has spent most of his career in the American League, where pitchers don’t bat. Broadcasters spoke of him as being a tough guy; I always thought of him as a coward.

Will the media make sure that Clemens and other players named in the Mitchell Report suffer the harsh scrutiny and name-calling that Bonds has endured? I doubt it. They already have their man.

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