Honestly, I have no idea.
What would you do if you were Andy Pettitte? You just signed a major contract to come back for one more year before retiring as one of the most successful pitchers of your generation. But, all of a sudden you are accused (with factual evidence) by a former U.S. Senator of a crime that has been proven time and time again to blatantly not fall under the pretense of “innocent until proven guilty.”
(If you don’t believe this, ask yourself what proof you have on Brady Anderson. The answer is “none,” but I have yet to meet anyone that does not believe, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that he was a juicer, including Yours Truly).
So, now you have two options: (1) deny, deny, deny, or (2) admit it. If you take option one, you get mercilessly ridiculed and vilified because no one believes you no matter how airtight you think your denial is (see: Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Jason Giambi, Mark McGwire…). For some reason, players do still decide to take this route (Roger Clemens), but it does not seem the smartest way anymore. So, you are probably relegated to going with option 2–to admit that you did it.
If you are going to do that, though, are you really come out and say: “Oh ya, I took that stuff. I heard that it would make me bigger, faster and stronger, and I really wanted to be bigger, faster and stronger than everyone else in the game. I got my dentist to prescribe me HGH; I got my kid’s pediatrician to sneak me some flaxseed oil; and, I got my veterinarian to authorize a 24-month supply of anabolic steroids designed for a 1500-pound steer.” No, probably not–at least if you have any concern for your reputation or legacy.
So, you come up with a believable story depicting yourself as the “gladiator” that defines today’s athlete, and how you were heroically injured in the field of battle. Then, unlike most narcissistic modern athletes, you felt that you “owed it to your teammates and fans” to come back quickly. You found a way to recover quicker, but you did not do anything to enhance your performance. You may have made a questionable decision, but if so, it was with nothing but genuine motives. And, you only did it twice in 13 years of major league baseball. Who could be mad at that? Hasn’t everyone made mistakes? You should be praised, not admonished; admired, not comdemned. To top it off, you throw in a couple lines like:
- “If I have let down people that care about me, I am sorry, but I hope that you will listen to me carefully and understand that two days of perhaps bad judgment should not ruin a lifetime of hard work and dedication. I have tried to do things the right way my entire life, and, again, ask that you put those two days in the proper context.”
- And, “I have the utmost respect for baseball and have always tried to live my life in a way that would be honorable. I wasn’t looking for an edge; I was looking to heal.”
Now, the only thing lacking may be credibility, so you get a highly-respected buddy of yours, like Mariano Rivera, to back you up.
Case closed. Who wouldn’t have done what you did?
The strange thing is that I do actually like and respect Andy Pettitte. I believed him when he came out and said what he said. I despised Clemens for what he did–sending a denial through a lawyer–but Pettitte seemed to handle his own situation with a sense of class. Was he merely the victim of the crooked, no-holds-barred culture of today’s professional sports? Is the pressure that we place upon our athletes to perform as heroes at the highest levels the real culprit in this whole ordeal? What self-respecting human being would not try and use anything possible to gratify the millions of “regular people” who live and die by your performance on a daily basis? What responsible employee wouldn’t do anything in their power to justify an exorbitant salary simply for playing a child’s game? Who are the real victims here?
The elicitation of these naturally-human responses and emotions are precisely why Pettitte’s comments on Saturday were ingenious. The phrases he used and the concepts he evoked are disarming, even admirable. He called accusations of performance-enhancing drug use “nonsense, wrong and hurtful” and said that it was “embarrassing for his name to be out there.” His comments took the dastardly act of steroid use and effectively cloaked it in a veil of human imperfection, with even a touch of grace and dignity. I set out to write this column as a questioning of myself and why I believed Andy Pettitte–because I did. I did not question his sincerity one bit until my fiancee called me a fool for not doing so. I was taken aback. “But, everything he said makes sense. What he did is really not that bad,” I reasoned.
“And, you believe it?” Ina asked, with her fine-tuned air of rhetoric.
“Uh, well…ya, I think so.”
But, she is right. The “Steroid Era” is in full swing all across sports. The “spins” on positive tests are getting more and more refined as each person gets caught. Ben Johnson was first–his response was primitive. We have progressed through Mark McGwire’s andro “it wasn’t illegal at the time” defense to the awfulness that was Jason Giambi and his tearful “I can’t say for what, but I’m really, really sorry” debacle. Floyd Landis tried every spin in the book, hoping one would stick. Marion Jones succeeded for 7 years in her denials and spin stories, until recently being stripped of her Olympic medals. And now we have Andy Pettitte and the best, most refined, most evolved, most believable spin story yet.
I don’t blame Andy Pettitte for saying what he said. I am not even willing to say that I am absolutely certain that he isn’t being 100% truthful. In fact, I still want to believe him because he has never been anything but classy and professional. However, what I am saying is that the Steroid Era is still in its relative infancy, and these stories are just going to get better and better as we go. Let us just hope that the proverbial (and grossly overused term) “Court of Public Opinion” is able to adapt and keep up with the ever-improving spinsters that surround the users. Let us not forget that knowingly having someone inject your rear-end with a performance-enhancing, illegally-acquired substance is NOT an admirable act, no matter who you are or how justified you perceive your reasons for doing so to be.