Brian McNicoll

A related mystery is why the hearing devolved into such a bitter partisan bickering session. Republicans took Clemens’ side – Dan Burton of Indiana told McNamee at one point he didn’t believe anything he’d said. Democrats backed McNamee and jabbed menacingly at Clemens.

But why? It’s not as if Clemens was known as some big-time conservative. Yes, he was squired around Washington by Rep. Ted Poe, a Republican. But Poe is the pitcher’s congressman, and he was far from the only member of the Houston-area congressional delegation to find his way into Clemens’ orbit that week. Even Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, extremely D-Texas, visited the pitcher in the Republican cloakroom that morning.

At least part of it, I think, has to do with how conservatives and liberals view people such as Clemens. Conservatives revere success. They admire self-sacrifice and discipline, and they don’t begrudge the man who parlays these into professional and financial success. They want to be like him and find ways for others to replicate his methods.

Liberals believe the Roger Clemenses of the world benefit from a random and thus inherently unfair assignment of talent. They think he’s rich and famous solely because he’s big enough and strong enough to throw a baseball 95 miles per hour.

Never mind that not everyone who throws 95 miles per hour has anywhere near the success of Clemens. Never mind lots of people are big enough and strong enough to throw that hard but don’t put in the work to learn the skills it takes to actually do so. Never mind the extraordinary inner strength that even Clemens’ worst detractors admit propelled him throughout his career.

This explanation absolves them of all responsibility for the fact they are not Roger Clemens. It’s all luck. He’s just a guy who got wildly rich because of the random assignment of genes. Nobody can have all that ill-gotten gain and any character, so he must have done whatever they say he’s done. And since he did nothing to earn his money, we all deserve a share of it.

And wouldn’t it be nice to knock a guy like that down a few pegs?

Sadly, acquittal or not, they did take him down a few pegs. His major-league record seven Cy Young awards will not be enough to get him into the Hall of Fame. He is ninth in history with 354 wins and third all-time in strikeouts. He won an MVP, which is extremely hard for a pitcher. He also was MVP of an all-star game. He is the only pitcher ever to strike out 20 batters in a game on two different occasions. But if he wants to get into Cooperstown, thanks to this and the increasingly questionable Mitchell Report, he will have to buy a ticket like the rest of us.

His detractors say his acquittal doesn’t mean he didn’t do steroids, just that the government and its slimeball witness could not convict. But the truth never mattered to them anyway. They were just trying to take the guy down a few pegs. Good thing the justice system at least didn’t cooperate.


Brian McNicoll

Brian McNicoll is a conservative columnist and freelance writer based in Alexandria, Va.


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