This conversation leads to a simple conclusion.
"So much of it is untrue, it's just tearing everybody apart."
Deep breath. "I know man, I know."
The conclusion is this: The person prefacing his statement with a deep exhale, which most often is a sound of remorse and agreement, is concurring the previous statement. He's saying, "You're right."
Those words came from a taped phone conversation between Roger Clemens and his former trainer Brian McNamee, Friday. McNamee told Mitchell investigators Clemens used steroids, a charge Clemens is now crusading to disprove.
Monday was a good day for Clemens. He started to beat back assumptions. He and his oil slick attorney made statements which were logical. Not to mention, Clemens was pissed.
It was clear in tone of voice, also clear by his choice to tape and air the phone conversation with someone he clearly considered a friend. Someone he would possibly would have thanked during his Hall of Fame induction speech.
One of the most telling moments was when Clemens started to take questions. After informing the press their faces were enough to make him angry, he pointed to a questioner telling him to use a microphone. This is when Clemens lost the pen he was holding.
He jerked his hand back, hitting the pen on the podium, causing it to fall. It sounds silly to denote losing the handle on a pen in such a grand situation, but it appeared to be the most real representative of how Clemens was feeling internally. Ever been mad and gone to slam, move, shove or throw something? Even a pen? It usually doesn't go well because you're so pent up internally.
Trying to stay composed, the broad-chested Texan had a difficult time. His lawyer advised him to lighten up, but he wasn't going to. Clemens has always been stubborn, likely one of his better attributes though also a small weakness. When claims came he was washed up, he wasn't. When he was retired, he wasn't. When faced with a count where he should give in, he didn't. Now challenged with what he says are lies, he's defiant.
It's been a strong stand by Clemens the past couple of days. The public wanted him to fold his arms and stamp like a spoiled five-year-old immediately following the Mitchell Report, insisting the immediacy of his response a gauge to quantify his guilt. As he said Monday, his response had to be tempered. There's too much at stake for him, and for others. Clemens is playing a delicate game, trying to combine ferocious denial of the accusations against him, while protecting the game and its codes. It's a tricky spot.
Public opinion hung his portrait next to Barry Bonds following the Mitchell Report. A light dig for statistical evidence correlating to McNamee's statements was easy to find thanks to the wild success Clemens had in Toronto. Though visual evidence, another main factor in a public opinion trial, only showed a progression in physique true to age. Clemens' weight had increased over the 23 years he was in the majors. What a surprise that is.
Regardless, the fight is on. Long before the Mitchell Report, Clemens was accused in a Los Angeles Times story of taking steroids. It was wrong, they apologized. Upon publication of the Mitchell Report, Clemens said the accusations were lies. Then he said it again on his Web site. Then, clearly feeling burned by more than just McNamee, he said it again, "lawyered up," got a softball interview on "60 Minutes", then held his own press conference and issued his most vehement denial.
Next up is a hearing before Congress. Clemens' statements may become more stern, more definitive. The coverage is going to expand, his opportunity to fight back to increase.
This is a matter of pride and reputation for Clemens, not a financial one. It's a battle to clear his name, a most American ideal stemming employed by a legend of America's most revered game. The amazing part is he appears to have a chance to do it.
Clemens has 354 career wins. His next would be most significant considering the odds against anyone trying to rectify half truths in the public forum.