“When all this happened, the former President of the United States found me in a deer blind in south Texas and expressed his concerns, that this was unbelievable, and to stay strong and…hold your head up high.” — Roger Clemens testifying before the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee.
The genius of Roger Clemens lies in the fact that he created the monster of himself. He is both Dr. Clemenstein, inventor of a more powerful man, and Clemenstein, the age-defying result, an ogre who defines ur-masculinity today. He is a big, white Republican who makes his own rules, lies, cheats and mixes family values and intimidation. Roger Clemens also manipulated and sacrificed associates to accomplish his mission. He was able to do this not only because scientific additions made him bigger and stronger, but because subtractions enabled him to believe in the preeminence of the creature he had become. The drugs went in and the soul came out.
We will see him go down.
Of course, it’s too late to matter much; like the present President, he’s already done his damage. Clemens has proven–as have Barry Bonds and Marion Jones, among others–that Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) really work. This will mostly benefit Big Pharma when it renames such chemicals Health Enhancing Drugs (HEDs) and finds ways to prescribe them for the newly created disease of losing sports competitions. (Consider how the makers of Paxil made shyness into the diagnosable social anxiety disorder.)
It’s too bad that the issue has become the ethics of enhancement rather than the science of enhancement–on which we still don’t have much useful data. Exactly which drugs do what? And what are the long-term effects? It’s amazing how little we know (or perhaps want to know) about PEDs beyond the way they have affirmed and endorsed the nation’s addiction to quick-fix upgrades. Old guys popping monkey glands, rhino tusks and testosterone to prolong the torrents of spring seemed ridiculous until cops, rappers, mercenaries and home-run hitters began shooting steroids.
Traditional logic might suggest that our real heroes would be found among our warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan, brave men and women risking death to subdue an enemy while saving each other. But revulsion towards those wars leaves sports and Hollywood as the idol pools of choice. We get Sylvester Stallone, who used chemicals to pump himself back up into Rambo, and Clemens who became the greatest pitcher of our time… even after his time should have expired.
Clemens ruled. The images of two of baseball’s best current players, Alex Rodriguez and Mike Piazza, were badly wounded in confrontations with him. His personal trainer, Brian McNamee, and his friend and mentee Andy Pettitte have also been hurt.
Clemens’ signature tactic, whether on the mound or in the meeting room, is intimidation. Some of it’s a simple matter of size; Clemens is 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 220 pounds. But Rodriguez and Piazza are 6-3/200, and Pettitte is 6-5/235, so some of it has to be force of will. The Rocket is scary because he’s evidently prepared to do anything to dominate and win. He seems to have no moral delay.
In 2000, which would put The Rocket on PEDs (if conventional wisdom is true), Clemens, then a Yankee, knocked down Rodriguez, then the Seattle Mariners’s star, twice in his first at-bat in Game Four of the American League championship series. It was bravura gamesmanship, scaring A-Rod and his teammates away from digging in at the plate. Clemens went on to dominate the game and win.