Sunday, January 6, 2008

Gammons and Clemens Are Buddies,
McNamee Ordered Rocket Around

Pat Jordan of The Baseball Analysts website recounts his encounters with Roger Clemens. Most interesting was his description of a run-in which showed Clemens to have a slightly damaging relationship with ESPN legend turned Red Sox shill, Peter Gammons.

Later in the piece Jordan describes the relationship between Clemens and his trainer Brian McNamee, who seemingly ordered the Cy Young collector around like Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate. Apparently buttered baked potatoes are sacrilegious yet injections that eat your insides are fair game.

I had a chance to become friends with Mr. Clemens in 2001, when I interviewed him for a profile in the New York Times Sunday magazine. But, alas, our friendship did not take. Despite the fact that I, like Mr. Wallace, felt I too had been objective in my profile, Mr. Clemens did not concur. In fact, he called me up after the story appeared and berated me over the telephone.

When I asked him what he didn’t like about the story, he said, “I didn’t read it.” I responded, “Then how do you know you don’t like it?” He said he was told by his “friend,” and the co-author of one of Mr. Clemens’ books, Peter Gammons, the ESPN-TV analyst, that he should hate it. In fact, Mr. Clemens hated my profile so fervently that he had me banned from the Yankees’ clubhouse during the years he remained with the team.

I would later learn that one of the many things Mr. Clemens hated about my profile of him was my description of his fawning relationship at the time with his friend Mr. McNamee, who lived in the pool house of Mr. Clemens’ Houston estate. On the first day I interviewed Mr. Clemens in Houston I had dinner with him and Mr. McNamee at the most exclusive steak house in Houston. The bill was for over $400, which I paid. Mr. Clemens said, “I’ll get you tomorrow.”

The next day he bought me a taco at a Mexican Restaurant. But the point of my profile of Mr. Clemens was less about his parsimoniousness than it was his strange relationship with Mr. McNamee. During the dinner at the steakhouse Mr. Clemens asked Mr. McNamee for his permission to have a steak (McNamee nodded) and a baked potato (McNamee nodded again, but added a caveat, “Only dry."). The same scenario played itself out at the Mexican Restaurant. Clemens pointed to an item on the menu and Mr. McNamee either nodded, or shook his head, no.

First of all, what a douche. Clemens puts a $400 dinner on the sportswriter's tab and thinks buying a $4 burrito the next day is reciprocating. Combine that type of compensation with the cumulative effects of his intravenous use and that wife of his must be one unsatisfied Texan.

If Jordan's report is true - and why would he make up such an anecdote - Gammons takes a major hit. Every sports reporter will garner relationships with their subjects and sometimes even develop friendships after years of close observation. This is no travesty.

However, once you begin policing other writers who may have criticized an ally athlete, there is reason to be worried of how slanted that individual's reporting has become.

Since Gammons recovered from a serious health ailment, his Red Sox tilt has become impossible to ignore. Jordan's piece reinforces the idea of a transforming sports culture which encourages reporters to befriend - not belittle - their subjects.


Dan said...

How can you possibly take anything in that article seriously? The entire piece is self-aggranidizing BS. If a journalist wants to interview an athlete over dinner, he pays for the freakin' dinner. Of course he does--he is the one getting paid to write the story (and expensing his meals, most likely). If Clemens paid for a $400 dinner for all the people he was interviewed by, I would wonder about the objectivity we could expect from them. And why does he waste our time talking about how he used to "allow" Tom Seaver to beat him at baseketball all the time. What the hell does that have to do with anything. What a hack.

Bronx Liaison said...

If you think a sportswriter would have chosen the most exclusive steakhouse in Houston to take his interview subject you are sorely mistaken. Of course writers are usually going to put such expenditures on the tab of their paper, but zillionaires like Clemens are able to pick up such a tab without journalists losing every shred of credibility.

If the writer were receiving car payments, that's another thing.

Mostly, I think you miss the point that the majority of the post was to be taken as humor, though I would not doubt the role of Peter Gammons indirectly chastising another writer for criticizing Clemens.

Dan said...

I am with you to an extent and my post was a little harsh. But though many of the points in the article are tongue in cheek, many are not, and his snide dismissal of Clemens' achievements and his training regimen and dietary restrictions reek of the sour grapes of a bitter failed athlete.

Roger Clemens was a better pitcher than Nolan Ryan was at EVERY point in their respective careers, yet Ryan is considered by all to be a gifted athlete who didn't need any help throwing 95 at the age of 45, while Jordan and everyone else feels comfortable arguing that Clemens could NEVER have done what he has done without drugs. Maybe that is true, maybe Clemens juiced, and maybe his career would have been over without chemical help (though acoording to McNamee he won the Cy Young in 1997 without them). But how the hell does Jordan know? He seems to be arguing that because Clemens watched his weight and didn't pick up the bill, then obviously he juiced, because all of those things are a little bit lame in one way or another.

Comparing him to Seaver is silly--Seaver looked like a whale by the time his career was rounding out. Clemens was still incredibly fit and running miles more every week than pitchers 10 years younger than him. He won a friggin' cy young in '97 without juice--why does everyone think he was about to fall apart in '98 if he didn't start taking 'roids? It's just mindless conjecture and Jordan seems to be letting his annoyance with Clemens for being cheap get the better of him.

Bronx Liaison said...

I think that's a part of the problem.

The majority of the "evidence" the public uses to decide on Clemens is based on mindless conjecture.

The entire steroids subject has become a grey area and unfortunately - without the aid of confession or indisputable evidence - the truth will forever be a hazy, unattainable ideal.

Dan said...

Yeah, it's all gray areas now, but yet every writer out there is ready to say that they are positive Clemens is guilty, whether or not anyone comes up with any proof and regardless of how shady McNamee appears. All the crazy stuff that went down today kind of backs up what I was saying previously--though maybe more than I am comfortable with. McNamee is a nut, and a criminal and was pushing drugs on guys and was arrested for putting date rape drugs in women's drinks, which is what got him fired and put on the police radar in the first place. That doesn't mean that Clemens didn't juice--in truth the fact that he trusted such a screw up doesn't speak well of his judgement. But McNamee DEFINITELY turned in Clemens to get out of jail, whether or not Clemens did anything, and yet thousands of journalists are willing to take McNamee at his word without a shred of evidence. Now Clemens will sue for defamation, testify before congress without immunity, and McNamee is saying he isn't going to sue, yet he won't explain why. And still writers are saying Clemens is lying--all on the word of a criminal who was going to jail if he didn't roll and give the name of a superstar to some careerist prosecutors. If no one comes up with proof on Clemens and Clemens goes to court and Congrees and testifies without immunity, then I don't understand how a responsible journalist or commentator can say they have any good reason to believe that weasel McNamee.