Thursday, February 14, 2008

Clemens' testimony isn't helping

Survivor, American Idol and Big Brother have nothing on congressional hearings. Yesterday gave us four and a half of the best hours of reality television, with Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee squaring in a Washington battle royale where two men entered and only one would leave – with his dignity.

And that man was Brian McNamee. Cool, calm and to the point, the former New York City police officer/trainer/dope dealer started off the hearings with a bang. Clemens, on the other hand, seemed about as prepared as Miss South Carolina. With his lack of focus and embarrassing off topic rants, I was half expecting to see Marsha Clark sitting behind him. The guy is pleading his innocence to preserve his entire legacy, and all he could do was stammer his way through predetermined questions from people he’s already had interviews with.

The whole day started off with an omen. Apparently, Clemens’ lawyers were the ones that got this whole shindig to go down, which basically means that with the facts standing by themselves, it spelled doom for Clemens. So the former Cy Young winner came out full of anger, trying to look as innocent as possible. I doubt anyone changed their minds as that point. But it wasn’t like McNamee’s opening statement was impressive either. Just a bunch of stuff we already knew.

So we go on to learn that Andy Pettitte told investigators that the Rocket told him that he used HGH. Yeah, that’s not good. This is when Roger goes on to say that Pettitte “misremembers”, a word that he will use roughly 100,000 times throughout the day. When asked about why Pettitte and his wife would lie about his best friend taking steroids, all Clemens could come up with was that he must have mistaken that conversation with another they had talking about watching a commercial. It’s pretty much over from here. Clemens’ story is unbelievable, and there is no way in hell Andy Pettitte would lie about his closest friend taking illegal drugs.

Then came the throwaway argument: a party at Jose Canseco’s house. McNamee says Clemens was at a party which he obviously wasn’t, according to anyone who could remember it, including Canseco himself. I kept asking myself, “why does this matter?” It had nothing to do with anything. At worst, people could say McNamee is a liar, at best that he “misremembered”. But if you’re going to liar route, which is about snowball, let me remind you about Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch, two men who threw away everything to support McNamee’s claims.

After some shady testimony from Clemens, one of the lowlights of the day reared its ugly head. And the ugliness would come in the form of Rep. Dan Burton. I would bet money that he was drunk. He laughed McNamee, repeatedly called him a liar and even said that he was disgusting. He then went on to praise the Rocket’s career, followed by basically yelling at McNamee that he didn’t believe him. Though it was despicable, as possibly career-ending for Burton, it did come off as hurting McNamee’s case. But what nobody is talking about, and what sealed the deal for me, was what fellow Indiana Rep. Mark Souder said. Souder, the co-founder and co-chairman of the Congressional Caucus on Drug Policy, explained that in most drug cases, offenders tend to just give you enough to leave them alone. McNamee lied at first, then came forward with a little, then a little more, then a little more. Burton calls McNamee a liar, which he is, but eventually the truth came out. It’s not that McNamee is making things up as he goes along, it’s just that he tried to protect his friends as long as he could. When talks about perjury and the government got involved, McNamee finally gave it up. If anything, his lies at the beginning show how much he can be trusted, if that makes any sense.

Look, to make a long story short, Clemens was banking on the fact that people would think McNamee is a liar, and is lying about his steroid use. But everyone not named Roger Clemens backs McNamee up, and even his lying at the beginning had a motive. Unless you are a conspiracy theorist who believes McNamee is being forced to lie, there is no way he would be making this up. Clemens on the other hand, has every reason to lie. He is the only one with anything left to lose. And the more he denies it, the deeper the consequences go.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Shaq for Shawn?

There's one thing that I always thought baseball had over the NBA and NFL, and that was trades. Usually, win a big-time trade needs to happen, MLB teams seem eager to pull the trigger. Most of this is due to no salary cap, so small market teams have no choice but to get what they can for their stars (see: Santana, Johan). But another big part of it is that GMs never want to look bad, so they refuse to make any move that could bite them in the ass later.

If there was any NBA team I thought would never make "that trade", it would have been the Phoenix Suns. This is a team who routinely gives up their first round draft pick every year to save cash. Needless to say, I was shocked to learn that the Suns are about to trade Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks for Shaquille O'Neal. So let's look at this from both sides.


There is no reason the Heat shouldn't have made this trade. They are one of the worst teams in the league, and they need a different look. Maybe pairing Marion up with Dwayne Wade can turn things around. At any rate, Shaq is old, so at least they get younger.


Here's the real reason the Suns got rid of Marion: he didn't want to be there. This team has had chemistry problems for a while, and Marion was at the center of it. Apparently, they thought they had to get rid of him to make a title run. This is both understandable and deserving of applause. Not enough teams make moves to improve their chemistry.

They only problem is that Shaq is old, and he could never run. The Suns' whole game plan is set on running up and down the floor. Something's gotta give. And why wouldn't they shop around for somebody else? Did they not think about getting Pau Gasol before the Lakers snagged him? Or was it the Gasol trade that prompted Phoenix to make a move of their own? After all, the Lakers are their biggest rival, so why not go and get Shaq?

Anyways, a lot of questions need to be answered. When Phoenix hired Steve Kerr to be their GM in the off-season, they obviously wanted to try something new. And I can understand why they would want to make a move now, since Steve Nash's back isn't going to hold up for too much longer. But was this the right trade for the Suns? Only time will tell.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Super Bowl XLII

I racked my brain trying to come up with something to say about this game. Usually, I either try to see things from another angle or simply point out the obvious if it hasn't been done. Well, the obvious here is that Eli Manning has silenced his critics, and the Giants' defense flat out dominated. And due to the nature of the Super Bowl, just about every angle, wrong or right, has been approached.

So I'm not going to dwell on the game. What I came out of Sunday more than anything is the fact that I actually enjoyed watching it, and that it finally felt like the biggest game of the most popular American sport. For the past few years, the Super Bowl has been overhyped to the point where I never really got into the football spirit. The commercials and cameos took over as the main event. At every party, at least one person would say something along the lines of, "this football game is interrupting my commercials". It was a glorified exhibition game, set on a pedestal after a bloated two-week layoff.

But not this one. No, the Patriots and Giants hated each other. Before the game, Eli smiled and tried to say something to Tom Brady, and Brady just stared at him with contempt as Eli jogged off. Everyone was rooting for somebody. Whether it was for the underdog or for history (or in my case, hatred of the '72 Dolphins), there was a reason to watch the game.

Part of this is people getting sick of "analysts" and the extended time they had to break down the matchups. I, along with most of the people I know, made a conscious effort to stay away from SportsCenter and shows like PTI. I refused to even watch the pre-game talking heads on Sunday. This kept me from getting burned out before Media Day even started.

However, more than likely is was due to the game itself. Not every year do you get to see an 18-0 team go up against a team that had so many storylines (Eli becoming a great player, Coughlin changing his ways, Strahan almost retiring, Tiki Barber's absence, etc.). No matter how much the NFL tried to shove the Super Bowl down our throats, the game itself was going to overcome all of it. It was an exception to the rule, and next year will probably feel like it has been for a while; boring.

So score one for the NFL, but it's not going to last. Unless it's Manning vs Manning, Super Bowl XLIII will probably be a letdown. It will continue to be about marketing and advertising and less about the sport. But for one year, it was as good as it ever was.
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