Thursday, February 14, 2008

Roger & Me ... and when Baseball was just a game.

First, let me just say that I am a Cubs fan. Huge Chicago Cubs fan. Huge.

My Christmas Stocking is Chicago Cubs Blue with the big red "C" embroidered on the white fur trim. I wanted to name my firstborn Ron Ernie Ryne Fergie Billy Sammy, but the Mrs. was hearing nothing of that. Having said that ...

I want to try to clarify what happened yesterday in the Oversight and Government Reform Committee Hearing. For those who've been living in a cave or were heavily sedated over the past 21 hours, there was this little thing about baseball players and steroids in which "The Boss" said repeatedly – a fact that is unfortunately not being widely reported – that if Roger Clemens used steroids (or HGH or whatever) and he’s lied about it under oath he should be indicted, tried and if found guilty punished. The bigger point that got missed was his assertion that the Committee had a whole lot of other, much more important, things it could be doing than this.

Mr. Burton’s point yesterday was not to defend Mr. Clemens per se but to suggest that Brian McNamee seems to have a long history of lying and that the Mitchell investigators should have done more due diligence to verify McNamee’s story before destroying Clemen’s reputation by publishing his name in the report. Seems fair to me.

After the report’s release more evidence has come to light that both casts doubt and reinforces McNamee’s story but all of that is after the fact. If - and, in my opinion, that's a big "if" - at the end of the day it turns out that Clemens is in fact innocent, how does he get his reputation back?

That's a good question. If this McNamee is being "less than totally honest" about this stuff (likely) and was planning to say, I dunno, write a book about it (plausible), why not take the chance to smear this guy since the likelihood of anybody going to jail over this is remote. This was a circus from the outset. It was always meant to be a circus, in my opinion. I mean, c'mon, the media is even questionning whether or not the staffers that got an autograph or a picture with the "Rocket" violated the ethics rules! Are you kidding me? This was the hottest ticket in town and the press corps was looking to write about anything. CNBC, you know, the business channel, preempted it's schedule to carry the OGRC hearing. There were a ton of other hearings going on yesterday and I assure you the other hearing rooms were largely empty.

This is the kind of stuff that happens when games become businesses, and businesses become huge corporations, and huge corporations want to make money. This happens when guys who used to play for the love of the game, now play for contracts and endorsement packages. That's why it's a big deal on Capitol Hill and, I suppose, on CNBC.

When Baseball was just a game ...

I remember a time, as Carlin said, "before you were born, remember kids?" when Baseball was just a game. Really great baseball players played because they loved the game and we watched because we loved to watch them play the game.

As a Little Leaguer, I wanted to be just like my Dad (who played Minor League ball and was a college roomie of Twins Great Bobby Allison). I wanted to play first base. When I got a bit older I wanted to be just like Ernie Banks. When it was clear that I didn't have the stretch to play first, I tried third and wanted to be like Ron Santo. When I got relegated to the outfield, I wanted to be Billy Williams. The point is, all these guys were real hero-types. These were players whose number you wanted to wear on your Little League jersey (back when they actually were Jerseys and not tee shirts).

I remember sitting in the visitors dugout at the old Comiskey Park before the game with Bobby Allison, Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva and watching them stand there and sign autographs for what seemed like an eternity. There were all these kids hanging over the rail and all three of them just walked down the edge of the stands near the dugout signing away. You hardly see that anymore. You see those ballplayers didn't care if they made money off their autographs.

It was a magical time.

I really hope that my son and I have that same kind of magic again when his son is old enough to go out to "the Vic" or up to 1060 West Addison with his Dad and Grandpa. There is nothing more perfect than a Vienna Red Hot on a summer afternoon with Dad at Wrigley - especially when the Cubs win.

I write about this nobler time to point out that we should remember what Baseball is really all about. It's not about what Waxman, et al, flogged the Nation with yesterday. No, the really important thing wasn't what happened yesterday, the really important thing is what's happening today...

The Pitchers and Catchers report to Spring Training today! It will not be long until the two greatest words in sports return and it's time, once again, to "Play Ball!"
Thank God.
UPDATE: NEW YORK TIMES, Dateline, WASHINGTON: "The day before the Mitchell report was released, Brian McNamee lied to investigators for Roger Clemens when he told them that federal authorities had additional evidence about Clemens’s use of performance-enhancing drugs. McNamee’s lawyer said Thursday that McNamee made up the story in order to explain his own discussions with the authorities."
Ummm, does the phrase, "I told you so" apply here?

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