Monday, January 7, 2008

Roger's Press Conference: What the (BOOOOOOP)?

I'm blinking like I'm trying to make sense of baby babble here -- does anybody else feel the way the Roger Clemens defense team does, like the tape today actually contributes anything significant to his defense?

The tape, of a phone conversation between Roger and ex-trainer Brian McNamee Jan. 4, mainly sounds to me like a former employee (McNamee) down on his luck ingratiating himself to his boss (Clemens).

It featured this exchange, over and over:

Clemens: I just want someone to tell the truth.

McNamee: What do you want me to do?

And other exchanges like this:

Clemens: All I know is that I didn't do it.

McNamee: (silence)

Or this variation:

Clemens: I just can't figure out why you would tell people I did steroids.

McNamee: What do you want me to do?

And then McNamee goes on about firing his lawyers, and not knowing what to say, etc. etc.

Clemens's lawyers interpret his silence, and his not contradicting Clemens whenever Clemens says he didn't take steroids as being indicative that McNamee doesn't dispute this, that Clemens didn't take steroids.

But in the context, of a worried and indebted McNamee talking about how Roger treated him better than others in his life, about how Roger invited him into his home and that he'd eaten dinner with the family and modeled his parenting after Roger, it sounds to me like McNamee is really trying to do it backwards now, to ask Roger to put words in his mouth, what the official version of things should be.

When Roger says he can't figure out why McNamee would tell people he did steroids, it sounds more to me like Clemens is saying he can't figure out why McNamee didn't know to shut up. And when McNamee responds with "Just tell me what you want me to say" (becoming increasingly agitated as the call goes on, inserting swear words), it really sounds as if McNamee is befuddled, like -- "What do you expect, man? You did the stuff. I'm sorry, but I had to tell them or I was going to go to jail, and I have nothing -- no money, no family, my kid is sick," etc.

Where McNamee is distraught, Clemens seems cool, and haughty. Acting the boss, and also very careful about his actions. He knows this is being taped, after all. (And I wonder about its admissability in court; granted, this was a press conference, and the grandstanding is in full bloat right now.) He knows the legal implications. He's already talked to Mike Wallace, and refers to the press conference scheduled for Monday. Seems like a cat jumping on the bait and trying to force something, to me.

And McNamee never takes the bait, as much as Clemens's people will stress he never stands up to Roger and says, "You know you took steroids," or "I told them the truth, Roger." What is telling to me is McNamee's tone -- subservient. And also what he does not say -- he doesn't say, "You're right. I lied."

It's a creepy phone call, but more so for the way Clemens and his lawyers are bringing this out like it explains so much. And for the way it portrays him as a haughty, former boss disappointed in a lackey. Last I checked, McNamee was talking to lawyers under penalty of perjury when he laid out the testimony. That's the legal version of the truth. And the tape further adds to that by showing a former employee and friend anguished by what he had to tell. And a former boss trying to spin it.

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