Sunday, January 06, 2008

Quite a bit has happened since I last posted. I know, I really meant to update more frequently, but I had to go on a bit of a bender what with Illinois taking the beating it did at the hands of the hated USC Trojans and all. So there is much to talk about in this post. If I were the sort of blogger that succeeds at blogging, I'd have posted tonight's material in three or segments and most of it a long time ago.

First, I really thought Illinois could have won that game. I don't think USC was that much more talented than Illinois. Unfortunately, the Trojans were much more experienced and every single break of the game and bounce of the ball went their way. That bounding backward pass was a hell of a play by McKnight, but when does that ever turn from disaster into a 60 yard gain? And once it became a passing game, Williams just couldn't bring them back. That said, I thought Mendenhall was the best back on the field that day and I was very pleasantly surprised to see how well Vonte Davis tackled. I assumed he was just a speed cover corner, but he made some Darrell Green-esque tackles, and not just when he ran down McKnight on that nightmare play.

As for yesterday's games, so what if Seattle won? I still think they're massively overrated. Against any other team, those two gift INTs Hasselbeck threw to Landry would have sent the pride of the Emerald City and the 12th Person home crying. Which reminds me, did Seattle rip off their nickname from the town at the end of the damn Yellow Brick Road in The Wizard of Oz, or what?

I was very impressed with Mike Tomlin, even though the Steelers won't be joining us until mini-camps open. I like the fact that he allowed his defense to fight to the bitter end and not pull that lame stunt that Holmgren pulled allowing Denver to score a TD at the end of Super Bowl XXXII to save time on the clock for a potential tying drive, which just fell short anyway.

I believe that the NFL is (or should be) the last bastion of the old ways of doing things. No one ever gave a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed, according to General Patton. Playing for the tie or playing to set up a comeback may work out, but a man with pride ought to be happier taking a shot at winning as opposed to planning to be scored on, pushed around or some other such humiliating eventuality.

As for today's games, I didn't really like any of the four teams playing. Tampa would have been the closest to a team I could have rooted for, what with that amazing shade of dark grey in their helmets (not to get all Bravo Network up in here, but that is a damn cool looking color, so cool that it defies syntactic and grammatical correctness) and a very good defense (I thought Gaines Adams was overrated, I was wrong). But they have Jeff Garcia, whom no true TO fan can stand and they are the last bastion of Barber-ism in the NFL.

For the most part, I thought that Ronde Barber's comments were overblown. But there was more than a bit of me that thought he was nearly as out of line as his brother had been when he released his silly little autobiography this summer. Tampa shouldn't have been terribly worried about the Giants, but for the fact that Tampa themselves managed to prove very little this year.

The second game was close, and it was interesting to watch. But it struck me as a lot of wasted effort. Neither team could have won in the next round, I didn't think. I thought the closeness of the score was more indicative of two half-decent but overrated defenses playing against two shaky, suspect offenses. Maybe Vince Young could have given the aging linebackers of the Patriots fits with his mobility, but then again he could have given Samuel, Harrison, Hobbs and co. several gift INTs too. So better, in the long run, that San Diego advanced.

The real story of the day was the long awaited Roger Clemens interview. I believed him. Red Sox fans probably won't, but that's life. Yeah, Clemens blinked more than I'd have liked. But who can say how the CBS crew lit the interview area? And more importantly, could you sit there, across from Mike Wallace and look him in his wrinkly, pruny face and not blink? A lesser person than Clemens might have seen Wallace for that extended period of time and decided to forgo the joys of senectitude (advancing advanced old age, for Red Sox fans) for euthanasia.

Why I believe Clemens is, I think a fairly simple explanation. McNamee accepted a deal to provide Federal prosecutors with information in exchange for not going to jail for his involvement in a steroid ring. There are those who can believe that a man who accepts the government's beneficence with a rejuvenated sense of right and wrong and will provide the prosecutors with the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I, however, believe that any character slimy enough to accept a plea deal to save his own skin has lost sight of the value placed on truth, justice and what once might have been described as the American way.

I can see the logic in statements that put Barry Bonds' alleged use of performance enhancers down to his envy over the accolades heaped on McGwire and Sosa and a desire to break big records. I don't really believe them, but I can see how these factors might have come into play. I just don't see it for Clemens. He'd already won four Cy Youngs before McNamee claimed to have injected him for the first time in 1998.

It is true as Red Sox fans love to point out that Roger did say he wanted to play closer to his home in Texas when he left Boston in 1996 only to sign with Toronto. So he was, in that instance, slightly less than honest. But going for the money the way he did is something that we all would have done given the opportunity. Steroids is a whole different animal. Clemens was a Hall of Famer when he left Boston, he didn't need to reach any more milestones, he didn't need to do more. He was already the best pitcher of his era.

And the thing about McNamee's story is that it rings false to me. I realize, as my reader the KobraKommander pointed out when the Mitchell Report first dropped, McNamee has certain physical evidence in the form of bank records and cancelled checks to show that he received payments from Roger Clemens. Alas, these documents don't show injections of performance enhancing drugs in the Rocket's handwriting in the checks' memo spaces. So it's a he said, he said situation.

What really bothers me about the story is that McNamee has admitted under oath (or at least I assume he has as he testified against his associates) to some form of involvement in a steroid distribution ring. And yet in the yarn he spun for the Mitchell Commission, McNamee stated that the steroids he injected into Roger Clemens were purchased and brought to the scene of the injection by Clemens himself. It doesn't make sense to me. And as Roger challenged in the interview tonight, let the unnamed and unknown purveyors of steroids who sold to Clemens come forward to damn him.

This sad, sordid story has reminded me of one of my favorite films. It's called Quiz Show, about the corrupt game show 21 in the late 1950s. Congress, in one of its nobler efforts to protect us from phantoms and demons, launched a lengthy and expensive investigation into the TV game shows on the allegation that the shows were rigged, which they were.

The two biggest winners in the show were Herbert Stempel, an unattractive know-it-all of a loser, and Charles Van Doren, a young, handsome, clean cut member of a prominent American intellectual family. Both had received the answers, both had profited from the rigged show, but Van Doren ended up with a future in TV and Stempel went right back to being the ugly tool whom no one liked. So Stempel made a stink, testified before Congress and brought the show and Van Doren down with him.

Before the analogy spins even further out of control, in this little farce, Curt Schilling (or America's conscience as he styles himself) is Stempel and Roger Clemens is Charles Van Doren. Where the analogy breaks down is that Van Doren was guilty and Clemens isn't. But all of America, for the sake of catharsis, needs Schilling to come out in one of his ten million press conferences and say something on the lines of "Look, I admit I am insanely jealous of what Roger Clemens has accomplished in his career. I'm sorry, but I am a terrible person and massively overrated. As a penance, I'm retiring quietly, oh and by the way, I faked the bloody sock." Alas, it will never be.

Three more thoughts on the Clemens interview. First, Roger made a hell of a point when he asked Mike Wallace how exactly a person proves their innocence. Outside of the fact that one isn't required to do so in a law court, no one has ever adequately answered that one. Second, what would it prove to hook Clemens up to a polygraph? They measure physiological responses, so one would assume a superbly conditioned gentleman like Clemens would stand a good shot of beating it if he were lying.

And finally, was it ironic that Clemens' interview should follow a story featuring noted killer Johnny Mattarano? For whatever sins he may have to answer to Saint Peter and the Lord, Mattarano is, himself, a victim of a rat in the service of the US Department of Justice (namely James "Whitey" Bulger). And here I am, a guy who just doesn't want to believe in coincidences.

By the way, I didn't have time to do it tonight, and I was too intoxicated last night (and the night before), but I was at the Cs game on Friday and I watched them play Detroit last night. So I have some thoughts to relate about the game experience and the future of the team. I probably won't get to them until Tuesday, though, with the BCS title game tomorrow.

But before I wrap up, I have one more thing to say. I generally try to avoid politics in this space, but I need to say something about Mike Huckabee. I think he should be required to campaign with a midget, a broom and a big banner proclaiming him to be the friend of the little man. Whenever I see him at a campaign event, I can't help but think of Homer Stokes, the reform candidate for governor in O Brother Where Art Thou. But that's just me.

Oh, and as a postscript, I have this to say to Chuck Norris. You sucked as an actor and you suck as a political activist. Here's the realest of the the real Chuck Norris facts for you, 90% of Americans want you to drop dead, they're just too polite to say it.

1 comment:

thekobrakommander said...

Seriously, think about what you're saying for a minute. The checks and bank records exist; therefore Clemens paid McNamee for something. Why in the world does Clemens have to pay McNamee to inject lidocaine and Vitamin B12? If the stuff Clemens was taking was legit, wouldn't his team doctor or trainer have done it and been paid by the team?

Why the hell did he have to have B12 injected at all? He could simply eat more meat, eggs, or wheaties, or he could take a pill if he was deficient. Injection is not indicated unless a patient has a disorder that prevents him from absorbing B12 from food. Surely Clemens would be able to document such an extreme medical condition.

While lidocaine is generally harmless and administered over the counter in the form of creams or patches, lidocaine injections are a different matter; they are higher strength, must be directly injected into the fluid sac around a sore joint, are available by prescription only, and are typically adminstered only in a doctors office. Where did Clemens get a prescription for lidocaine injections? Is McNamee qualified to do these injections? Surely Clemens could document this claim with his medical records.

I agree with Clemens that he is innocent until proven guilty; however, the same holds true for McNamee. If Clemens wants to accuse McNamee of lying (and since he filed a defamation suit, he apparently does), the burden of proof now rests with Clemens to demonstrate that what McNamee said was false.

Clemens has put himself in the position of being forced to prove his innocence with regards to knowingly taking steroids in order to prove McNamee's guilt with regards to lying to the Mitchell commission. That's his problem, and I won't feel sorry for him even if Barbara Walters interviews him and he cries his eyes out.