In 1994 I spent a summer working on Cape Cod. Whilst I wasn’t completely ‘new’ to baseball, it was my first summer where I spent mornings drinking Snapple, eating bagels and trawling through the box scores diligently noting my newly crowned favourite players' statistics.
Visiting a friend in Chicago during a road trip, I had seats behind home plate with Jason Bere striking out thirteen. I always looked for his line in the box scores. I was entranced by Aaron Sele’s seemingly effortless, smooth ‘twelve to six’ curve, so I kept an eye out for his numbers. My first ever live game at Fenway Park was the Red Sox and Brewers, with no less than Roger Clemens on the hill. Yes, as I walked in to the stadium, I heard ‘Rocket Man’ on the public address system.
Naturally I followed his progress, when not on TV, through newspaper stories and box scores.
His status as ‘one of my favourites’ did not, however, last long. To the casual observer, Clemens was a star for the Boston Red Sox. A Superstar, to be exact. If Clemens was pitching in the here and now, ESPN would deify him ala LeBron. He would have his own particular celebrity niche on the Internet. He would be endorsing everything from Trucks to Lite Beers and you bet he would be appearing on glossy quasi military recruitment infomercials, telling us how great it is the troops are ‘protecting our freedoms’.
Unfortunately for Clemens, he lived in a time where, you know, reality was the norm. People knew. People didn’t rely on ESPN or the like telling them what opinion to have on a Superstar. They made up their own mind, based on actual, real information.
Waltzing innocently back to the summer of ’94, a few nights after seeing Clemens pitch at Fenway, I rolled in to the ‘Bombshelter’ bar, down by the harbour in Wellfleet. Now, bear in mind, I had just seen one of the greatest pitchers of all time at work, I had been indoctrinated by the Red Sox media friendly game day program, telling me exactly how awesome Clemens was. I had spent months digesting his impressive statistical lines. As far as I concerned, before I walked into the bar that evening, Clemens was a super duper Superstar.
My perception didn’t last long. Let’s just say, I am not astonished to see Roger Clemens sitting in court, right now. I am not astonished ESPN is leading with stories like ‘Clemens and defence team ready for road ahead’.
Drinking down a cold beer after a long hot day’s work, I ventured to one of the assembled gentlemen at the bar that Roger Clemens was awesome. His retort was nothing short of X-rated. If I recall correctly, he said;
‘’**** that ***hole. Clemens is a ******* ****.’’
I waited for the laughter, but it never came. Instead, his friends joined in. The only difference is their language was even more course. I raised a few statistical arguments in his defence, and they were shot down one by one like Japanese Zeros at Midway. The general consensus was that, it didn’t matter what Clemens did on the field, he was such an unlikeable character off the field, that any good on the field, on the mound, was negated.
The funny thing is, after the initial surprise wore off, during the next few weeks I began to hear and even read more stories about Clemens, and how rude, selfish and generally arrogant he was.
There are probably some people still kind of either, on the fence, or maybe even still hoping Clemens comes out of this smelling of roses.
The hard working, blue collar working men of Cape Cod, however, were never in doubt. As far back as 1994, they though that Clemens, a star on a team that meant more to them than family members mean to some, was, and I quote ‘’A big fat ***hole’
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