On Roger Clemens

The Baltimore Sun

The next time you watch American Idol and fantasize about being a big celebrity, go stand in line at your local supermarket and think about how that's working out for whoever is on the cover of this week's edition of the National Enquirer.

Or, in the case of soiled superstar Roger Clemens, the front page of yesterday's New York Daily News.

You remember "The Rocket." He used to be a baseball hero ... a role model to millions ... the embodiment of the American Dream. Now, he's so tarnished that you could dip him into that miracle silver cleaner they advertise on late-night television and he'd still be stained beyond recognition.

The latest revelation, based on accounts from several unnamed sources, is that Clemens engaged in a 10-year affair with country singer Mindy McCready, who was just 15 years old when he met her in a karaoke bar in Fort Myers, Fla., in 1991. Clemens' attorney, Rusty Hardin, confirmed the long-standing friendship in an interview with the Daily News, but denied his client had a sexual relationship with the young singer.

It's probably fair at this point to draw your own conclusions, but the news that a popular baseball star might have had an extramarital fling after meeting a pretty woman on a road trip wouldn't normally rate a WWII ENDS!-sized headline if it weren't for all that had come before it in the tawdry Clemens steroid saga.

Quick review: The guy showed up in George Mitchell's long-awaited steroid report in December, and he immediately began a wide-ranging campaign to clear his name. He went on 60 Minutes and delivered an angry denial to Mike Wallace. He filed a defamation lawsuit against personal trainer Brian McNamee, who told Mitchell he had injected Clemens with human growth hormone. Clemens went before Congress and disputed witness statements by McNamee and earnest teammate Andy Pettitte.

Now, he's the subject of a federal perjury investigation because he kept stepping on his own story and because evidence kept popping up that called his credibility into further question.

If this weren't so sad, it would be funny, because Clemens would be enjoying his gilded retirement a lot more right now if he had just owned up to a few shots of hGH at the outset and gotten on with his life. What's even sadder is that he would have been better off confessing even if he really had nothing to confess.

That's the nature of celebrity in the 21st century. Clemens was found guilty the moment he was accused, whether he was actually guilty or not.

Don't misunderstand. I'm not saying he didn't do anything. Most of the information that has become public -- and almost all of Clemens' behavior since the McNamee allegations surfaced -- point to a guy who is either lying to us or to himself. It's still a bit tragic that the truth -- whatever the truth might be -- has become almost irrelevant.

Somebody should have impressed upon Clemens at the very beginning that the first thing you do if you want to get out of a tree is to stop climbing. Whether he confessed to or denied the initial allegation, the important thing was to stop confessing or denying as quickly as possible. Case in point: Pettitte and Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts, who admitted to their dalliance with illegal performance-enhancing drugs and now look more like stand-up guys because Clemens refused to stand down.

Instead, he waved the flag and played the family card during the nationally televised, Feb. 13 congressional hearing in a desperate attempt to protect his image. It didn't ring true at the time, and maybe we're just now finding out why.

No doubt, an alleged affair between a former Yankees star and an underage country singer would be big news in New York regardless, and it was all but certain to be revealed during McCready's media-hyped comeback after her once-promising career was torpedoed by her own laundry list of tawdry personal issues. But this little scandal wouldn't have nearly the same traction if Clemens had not already slipped up so many times.

He set this trap for himself, so why should anyone be surprised that he keeps getting caught in it?


Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on most Saturdays and Sundays.

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