Color Commentary

Roger ClemensI’m not sure how this happened, but I’m now a pretty dedicated follower of baseball, having recently got into the habit of checking the American league standings nearly every day to see if the Yankees can hang on to their precarious lead over the Boston Red Sox. This is unremarkable except for the fact that professional sports in general, and team sports in particular, have left me cold for most of my life. But as I’ve mentioned before, there’s a real soothing quality to this sport, and what’s more I’ve been seduced by the endless depths of its statistical undercurrent.

On the other hand, my progress has been slower in developing an appreciation for the somewhat lackluster personalities of baseball’s ‘stars.’ These guys generally don’t have a particularly interesting message to communicate to the world beyond the expert feats of athleticism they commit on the field. After watching ball all season, I’m at a point now where I’m pleasantly indifferent to the worldview of most major league players, which isn’t such a bad way to enjoy the sport, really. Until, that is, one of them opens their mouths and says something substantially uninformed about the world beyond the ballpark.

What the Rocket Had to Say

This happened last night, after the Yankees defeated the bathetic Detroit Tigers, led by famed Yankees arm and future hall of famer Roger “The Rocket” Clemens. During the post-game show on the YES Network, Clemens was asked about his thoughts about having just pitched on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and one of his comments was spectacularly confrontational. I’m quoting from memory here, but it was something along the lines of, “It just disappoints me to hear all this complaining about what the President is doing overseas, about what he has to do over there. I’m just disappointed by the negativity.” Ugh.

Clemens has always struck me as a stand-up guy, not only by virtue of his incredible career as a pitcher, but also his rigorous work ethic — the man is a sterling example of vibrancy at the age of forty. And yet, at that moment, I lost a tremendous amount of respect for him and felt completely deflated by his comments, frustrated that he’d said something so terribly remiss and antithetical to my own feelings.

This made me understand a bit better how fans of the Dixie Chicks must have felt when they drew fire for comments against President Bush. Really, what business do entertainers have commenting on public events? More often than not, these remarks betray a celebrity’s shallow grasp of the issues, so I wonder even why they would tempt the wrath of the public at large.

Free Speech, Heard Selectively

Despite my distaste for what Clemens had to say, I tried not to get too upset about the matter, as the man does have a right to free speech, even if he supports a President that’s out to destroy that right. I’ll try my best not to hold it against him… but then I thought about what would’ve happened had he expressed the opposite opinion, which is to say something closer to mine.

What if he had said, “I think President Bush has betrayed the honor of those who perished in the 9/11 attacks by immersing the country in this faulty, poorly conceived war in Iraq.“ Can you even imagine what point size the newspapers would have to employ in their headlines in order to properly express the outrage that such a comment would inspire in the media? It would’ve been all over the front pages, and Roger Clemens would have been skewered in every newspaper, magazine and news show around.

Of course, that didn’t happen. Actually, judging by the fact that the New York Times, the New York Post and the New York Daily News all conveniently omitted Clemens’s specific, contentious comments about the war in Iraq from their reports on last night’s game, one might think nothing happened at all.