When Mike Meets Roger

By Shaun Powell
Updated: December 30, 2007

NEW YORK — Roger Clemens recently scheduled a sit-down with tough-guy interviewer Mike Wallace, who made a career out of making politicians sweat profusely, but because Wallace has a man-crush on Clemens, we fear the taped “interrogation” went something like this: Wallace: “Rog, how’s the kids?”

Clemens: “Great!”

Wallace: “You doin’ OK yourself?”

Clemens: “Super!”

Wallace: “Rog, you never took steroids, did you?”

Clemens: “Nope, can’t say I have.”

Wallace: “And that HGH stuff?”

Clemens: “Never.”

Wallace: “This McNamee guy, is he lyin’?”

Clemens: “Like an old hound on a porch.”

Wallace: “OK, that’s a wrap. Next, Andy Rooney on sports hero worship.”

Well, maybe we should give this great journalist the benefit of the doubt and figure that a week from Sunday his “60 Minutes” piece on Clemens will go deeper than Clemens did in his last game as a Yankee.

But really, none of it means anything. Wallace can drill and Clemens can deny and it can make for compelling TV, but it won’t sway the jury in the court of public opinion, which is what this whole interview is designed to do.

People already have made up their minds about Clemens, and the consensus is Clemens had something a lot stronger than ice water running through his veins the last several years.

Anyway, Wallace would be a lot better off interviewing Andy Pettitte and Brian McNamee, the former trainer for the two players who said he injected both with performance-enhancing drugs.

Pettitte already has ‘fessed up to taking human growth hormone, and given how close he is to Clemens, he probably knows if Clemens took HGH and/or steroids too.

Plus, given his deeply religious beliefs, which likely led to his confession, Pettitte would not lie to Wallace if put on the spot about Clemens. He might no-comment, which would be revealing in itself, but he would not lie.

And then there’s McNamee, who had plenty to lose by lying to steroid investigator George Mitchell and running the risk of getting caught. You could understand why McNamee might lie to protect Clemens, but lying to condemn Clemens? Only if he had a Lizzie Borden-like ax to grind.

That’s why the Mitchell investigation means nothing without a congressional hearing, which would put Clemens on the spot and tell us, once and for all, the truth. Unless Clemens places one hand over a Bible and raises the other, he can say anything to Wallace and it’s nothing but hollow words.

It will not work magic, one way or another, with the public. Nor will it sway Hall of Fame voters who aren’t sure what to think. They can essentially destroy Clemens with a snub; getting elected to the Hall means everything to Clemens, who desperately wants to be recognized by history as the greatest pitcher of his time.

What Clemens and Barry Bonds and Pete Rose and Marion Jones all failed to understand is the value of confession. Had Rose and Jones come clean and not deceived the public, they eventually would’ve been forgiven and pardoned.

We’re a nation of forgivers, if nothing else, but only on our terms. Only if the liars don’t play us for fools for a long time, which is exactly what Rose did with gambling and Jones did with steroids. Not only did they lie, they published books stressing their innocence, thereby turning those books into instant fiction.

By lawyering himself up for a big legal fight, Bonds is prepared to spend plenty of money and time trying to convince us that his accusers are lying about him. Given that Bonds potentially faces some real jail time, this should awaken Clemens to the possible consequences of lying, if he is indeed lying.

If nothing else, this has been one big lying year in sports, and there’s still one day to go. 2007 opened with Pacman Jones and Tank Johnson, added Michael Vick and a phony NBA referee, continued with the murder of a Pro Bowl safety and is winding down with the Mitchell Report.

In nearly every case, accused athletes/sports figures lied about their involvement. And even those who “came clean” did so only when the evidence, circumstantial or otherwise, was overwhelming. And even then they reached for an excuse. As in, “I only used steroids/HGH to heal from injuries and only injected myself once.” Again, are we really that gullible?

Come next Sunday on “60 Minutes,” it would be refreshing if Mike Wallace shows he didn’t retire his fastball, unlike the guy he’s interviewing.