There’s a great soap opera story unfolding this week.
It’s got friendship and betrayal, crime and lies, and now even spouses are involved. It’s being broadcast on TV, but the characters are real people. You can catch the proceedings on C-SPAN, since it’s taking place in the halls of the United States Congress. When it’s done, the final chapter in the book of Roger Clemens may be written.
Though I don’t envy the man in such a hot seat, I wish for the opportunity to have one thing he may lose this week. And I don’t mean a shot at the Hall of Fame.
The full story has two main characters. Along with Clemens is Andy Pettitte, his former teammate in New York and Houston, his protégé and his best friend. Thanks in part to Pettitte, things look bad for Clemens. His former trainer accused both men of using steroids and human growth hormone. Pettitte admitted the accusation against him was true. Then, under oath, he admitted to speaking with Clemens years ago about using the drugs. To defend his name, Clemens has claimed that neither the drug use nor the conversations ever happened. It was his wife, he says, who took human growth hormone. Explaining why he and Pettitte have given contradicting information under oath, Clemens says his old teammate “misremembers” conversations they had.
The most powerful part of this story is not the All-Star pitcher defending himself in front of Congress, but the relationship between two friends. Forget everything else — this is a story about Andy and Roger. Their friendship, once rock-solid, is facing its darkest day.
Will it emerge stronger, or will it become a part of history? And what good is loyalty? How important is truth? What does it mean to be a teammate?
Clemens and Pettitte weren’t just teammates. When Clemens joined Pettitte on the Yankees in 1999, the two quickly became the best of friends. They trained together, sat together in the dugout and flew home to Texas together, each seemingly never leaving the other’s side. When Pettitte signed with the Astros in 2004, Clemens followed. In 2007, both moved back to New York to rejoin the Yankees.
It was a match made in baseball heaven.
It wasn’t just a friendship. Clemens was the old veteran, the future Hall of Famer who had won five Cy Young Awards before coming to the Yankees. Pettitte was the quiet and serious kid who worked hard and never expected more than he got. When the two paired up, Clemens became Pettitte’s mentor, the model for the younger pitcher to follow. Pettitte seemed to idolize his friend, and Clemens fed off the appreciation and the responsibility.
But they were each adults, and they made decisions for themselves. Pettitte decided to use human growth hormone briefly to recover from injuries, later swearing off the supplement. Clemens may have used the same substance and others far more extensively, though he denies it. Now, the friendship between the two is being used against them.
“Andy Pettitte is my friend,” Clemens told members of Congress yesterday. “He was my friend before this, he will be my friend after this, and, again, I think Andy has misheard.”
Clemens is now in the awkward situation of defending himself against accusations from two friends. First it was his former trainer. Now it is Pettitte. The accusations from Pettitte are far more damaging, since they come from a source whose proximity to Clemens, one would imagine, might lead him to defend his friend. But Pettitte has not done so and, as a result, the friendship may be over.
I’m jealous, though I don’t know who to be jealous of. I don’t want to face Congress against testimony from the people closest to me, and I don’t want to have to give that testimony to avoid perjury. But I want the relationship that Clemens and Pettitte once had, and that teammates across sports have everywhere.
Once I regretted that I was not good enough to play professional baseball. Now I only regret that I wasn’t good enough to have played at a higher level than I did. I played through high school, both in school and for a weekend league, but neither team was serious.
We had fun playing, but we didn’t put much into it, and we didn’t get much out of it. Playing on a team strengthened only a few of my friendships. I never felt a strong bond to many of the guys on my teams, nor to my high school coach, who created the passive environment we played in. Camaraderie and loyalty were foreign concepts in my athletic life.
Seeing the strain on Clemens and Pettitte as they testify makes me jealous. I don’t want that pain, but instead what is underneath — what is giving way. I know it doesn’t take professional sports to form those bonds. It takes a hardworking and serious team with good people and shared goals — at any level and in any sport. Unfortunately, I had nothing close.
Pete Martin is a sophomore in Morse College. His column appears on Thursdays.