Butts On Parade: Clemens Meets Wallace By Dave Zirin

What the hell was I thinkin’?

As the scrutiny of Rocket’s press conference begins tonight in earnest, DZ hits us off yet again with his words of reason.



“The higher you get up on the flagpole, the more your butt shows.” Roger Clemens on 60 Minutes 1/6/07

And not since J-Lo’s heyday – or maybe Brad Pitt’s rear appearance in Thelma and Louise – has a butt been so utterly over-analyzed.

We now know that Roger Clemens has a rear end that’s seen more needles than Keith Richards’ family room. Yet it’s what filled the syringes that have the sports-world and the US Congress all atwitter. Last night Clemens tried to sell his anabolic virginity to both 60 Minutes and the great proctologist of American journalism, Mike Wallace. For 15 excruciating on-air minutes, the seven-time Cy Young award winner put himself in Wallace’s cross-hairs. He answered questions about Sen. George Mitchell’s steroid report and what may or may not have been injected into his Hall of Fame cheeks by his personal trainer Brian McNamee.

The Wallace/Clemens showdown had the hype of a prizefight. But the millions at home didn’t see the Mike Wallace who made Vietnam War architect Gen. William Westmoreland cry in his napalm. On Sunday we didn’t witness the famed media bulldog, but a chihuahua. If he had looked at the camera and said, “Yo quiero Taco Bell,” no one would have blinked. The 89-year-old legend is a regular in Yankee owner George Steinbrenner’s owner’s box and has called Clemens a friend. On Sunday he seemed to have his own narcotic reaction to the athletic proximity.

Wallace opened the interview by saying, “Roger Clemens is one of the greatest pitchers of all time, no question.” Then he called the Rocket, “The hardest working man in throw business.” As George Vescey wrote in the New York Times, “[60 minutes] has made politicians, business leaders, clergy and entertainers squirm, but there is something about athletes that brings out the little kid in normally aggressive interviewers.”

In the face of Wallace’s timid glow, Clemens was a picture of rumpled, stubble-faced outrage. But his efforts to come off like John Wayne hit all the wrong notes. He started by raising his voice and yelling, “I’m angry!… Twenty-four, twenty-five years Mike. You’d think I’d get an inch of respect. An inch!”

When Wallace asked whether it might be impossible to be that good at Clemens’ age, the Rocket responded, “It’s not impossible! You do it with hard work!” Wallace then summoned 70 years of journalistic experience and said, “Swear?” And Clemens responded, “Swear!” No pinky swears were deemed necessary.

It’s hard to find any love for Roger Clemens. He seems like the kind of guy who would borrow your car without asking and get a DUI. And yet despite all the entitled arrogance, Clemens’ performance was a sad train wreck that left me feeling disgusted with the whole sorry scene-and less concerned about steroids than the ongoing politicization and deterioration in the world of sports.

On Sunday we saw that Roger Clemens’ ability to throw a baseball doesn’t make him a great politician or advocate for his own innocence. He wasn’t Bill Clinton speaking smoothly about the pain he caused in his marriage or even Richard Nixon jabbering about Checkers the dog.

Even under Wallace’s paternal shelter, Clemens’ eyes shifted around the room, sweat glistening on his brow, a near parody of guilt. All we needed was a little chain-smoking to complete the picture.

When Wallace read passages from the Mitchell report, Clemens, in between furious denials, twitched like he was doing the lindy hop on an electric fence.

He tried to play Texas tough-guy, particularly when he spoke about all the injections he endured to play through pain and “go out and perform.”

But Clemens was most effective when for a brief moment he dropped the Gary Cooper routine and said simply, “And that’s our country, isn’t it? Guilty before innocent. That the way our country works now.” That’s certainly the way it has worked for Barry Bonds over the past several years. It’s hard to imagine a world where 60 Minutes would have given Bonds similar treatment and respect, interviewed by a friend for a national audience.

Clemens is now getting a taste – even if the blow is softened by racist double standards – of what athletes from Bonds to Martina Hingis to Randy Moss to many others have experienced in recent years: the flammable hypocrisy that torches athletes when their careers cross with drugs, whether recreational or “performance enhancing.” We now live in a sports world where human beings are glorified and then destroyed for our collective amusement. When these modern gladiators take substances to extend their time in fame’s embrace or find relief from the suffocating pressure of competition, they are punished. Then Congress comes running, ready to pile an extra coating of political distraction on this already noxious spectacle by trading on the pelts of athletes for cheap votes. The Clemens spectacle was yet another demonstration that we need a more sane way to deal with drugs in sports than turning it into reality TV or congressional fodder. No ifs, ands, or butts.

Dave Zirin is the author of “What’s My Name Fool?’: Sports and
Resistance in the United States”
(Haymarket Books)

You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by emailing here.

Contact DZ here.

Along the same lines, here’s Jemele’s latest.


22 Responses to “Butts On Parade: Clemens Meets Wallace By Dave Zirin”

  1. Once again Mr. Zirin you drop knowldege on fools.

    Great piece as always.

  2. Cevidence Says:

    That whole interview made me sick to my stomach. 3 years of high school journalism, 4 years and a Journalism degree plus a year writing for a newspaper and even I could have conducted a better and tougher interview piece. That was down right disgusting.

  3. How dare y’all question Clemens…how dare you question Mike Wallace’s interview….granted, I suffered thru harder questions when my 5 yr old nephew badgered me into a corner about Santa Claus and how he knew that he was at grandma’s house and not HIS house…but still…..

  4. Dave Z.

    Great article as always. I say give Clemens and the trainer a lie detector test. That phone call was a joke. As hot headed as Roger is, if he was innocent he would have been telling that trainer off with many bleeps in between. The entire call was staged and anyone who thinks otherwise is blind or a fool.

  5. Dave Zirin, the same guy who once called Military Appreciation Nights “vile.”

    Nothing else needs to be said about the guy.

  6. Friedman,

    Crawl back into you hole.

  7. Nicole 10/20 Says:

    OMG, he is sooo lying….. I don’t like saying that about people, but OMG. Remember how vehemently Marion Jones denied using PED’S, remember how Pete Rose would not go away and then wrote the book admitting to gambling on baseball games??

    I remember the time that my daughter lied about taking fingernail polish to school. She cried, she yelled and screamed and she even convinced my husband. I felt soooo guilty for accusing her until we found the smoking gun.!!!! I’m trying to remember the biggest lie that I have told and how I tried to convince everyone that I was telling the truth. I protested too much.

    Roger has that same “guilty” look about himself.

  8. Nichole,

    That’s hillarious. I never thought about it that way.
    Good point!

  9. Roger must know that they don’t have a paper trail on him. He even sounds guilty in the phone call

  10. Watch Roger get before Congress and conveniently not be able to answer questions because of his “pending litigation”……sweet move dont’cha think?

  11. Nicole 10/20 Says:

    Yeah Michelle,

    I’m sure President Clinton wouldn’t have pointed that finger and said “I have never had sexual relations with THAT woman, Ms. Lewinsky” if he would have known that she was nasty enough to keep the blue semen stained dress.

  12. Nichole,

    Again, good point.


    You to.

  13. Miranda,


  14. Ron Mathias Says:

    The taped telephone call actually made Clemens look even more guilty. He was trying to bait the trainer into asking for money, making it look like extortion. Roger kept saying “this stuff is not true”. He should have been saying what the “stuff” actually was. He could have called his buddy a liar on the phone. The tape was a joke. The trainer was calling him becuse his son was getting harassed by his peers and he wanted Rogers advice on how to handle it. He actually told Roger that he learned how to raise his own kids from him. I say he was juiced.

  15. If my boy betrayed me like that, I’d be on the phone, saying, tell them I didn’t do this shit, tell them you shot me with b-12, and i’d be very specific with my questions. This doesn’t mean Roger is guilty, but it is mad suspect. For once, I wish someone would just say, “Hell yeah I took steroids, how else can I still be a beast until I’m 45?”. That person would be praised beyond belief..at least initially

  16. GI Joe Clemens is untouchable.

    He should just come clean…….I mean why not. When you are a american hero and great hope. There is nothing you can do wrong.

    Didn’t the government call clemens to testify because he raised questions about the accuracy of the report.

    He11 this fool clemoes even got the government on his side. After this blows over Clemens will be cleaner then a brand new car off the showroom floor.

  17. Rashad-

    That would be nice for once. Just come out and say, ‘Hell yeah I did it, and I’d do it again, I signed for 25 mil last year at 44. Do I look stupid? Hell no, I did it, and I’d do that crap again. Next year I’ll have my book coming out like Romanowski, and you’ll love me again.’

  18. Y’all are funny.

    Nicole, I used to stick to my lie so hard I might even squeeze out a few tears. I practiced lying in front of mirror as a child, just so I could look poeple in the eye when I did it.

    Luckily, my mom caught me in a lie, about vacuuming a room of all things, and beat that ass until I realized that lying wasn’t for me. Best whipping of my life.

  19. Oh what a tangled web we weave…

    I don’t have any compassion for Clemens with respect to his sordid defense of himself. I don’t have a single, solitary problem with him injecting ‘roids to prolong his career or improve his health. What I find particularly objectionable for all those who are confirmed users is that they idly sat on their respective phat asses and watched/allowed one of their own to take the hit in stadiums, in public and in the press for more than 1000 days without uttering a word.

    In looking at the calendar, Roger’s been under the glare for far less time than others. We’ll see if he can stand the heat until 2011 or until such time as the wheels of justice compel him to plead the 5th; shrink from public life (ala McGwire) or close prison doors behind him.

  20. Rashad Clemens can’t say that because it’s witness tampering.

  21. I’d be curious of any of the baseball players that have lied to investigators will end up in jail “for six months” like Marion Jones. I’m not letting Jones off the hook mind you. I’m just saying they’re more prone to prosecute and jail women when they commit crimes over men. I suppose we’re seeing this same treatment with Marion Jones vs. someone like Rafael Palmero?
    Just a thought.

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