Magazine article The New Yorker

JUICE; Wind on Capitol Hill

Magazine article The New Yorker

JUICE; Wind on Capitol Hill

Article excerpt

The last time Major League Baseball players appeared before Congress, three years ago, a Talk of the Town reporter sitting in the back of the room vowed never to return. The customary congressional self-seriousness, combined with an embarrassing amount of hero worship and token moralizing, was enough to inspire fantasies of another government shutdown. The issue, of course, was steroids, and in the interim, thanks to former Senator George Mitchell's three-hundred-page report, names have been named. Last week brought Roger Clemens before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to face his accuser and former trainer, Brian McNamee, in a game of perjurers' chicken that seemed to promise judicial action rather than mere reprimand. And, since saying one thing and then doing another is at the root of the issue, please forgive the lapse in journalistic accountability: a repeat visit.

Clemens's appearance--a "Roman circus," according to Christopher Shays (R., Conn.)--was a picture of Washington as usual: there was lobbying (Clemens visited with committee members, posing for pictures and signing autographs) followed by partisan squabbles, with Republicans taking the pitcher's side and Democrats favoring McNamee. This time, at least, there was also genuine comedy. We learned that the ever-beefy Clemens is not familiar with the word "vegan," for instance, and that one of the casualties of his alleged drug use was a pair of "designer pants" that he bled through; thereafter, McNamee claimed, Clemens travelled "with those little Band-Aids for his butt."

Much of the discussion worked its way back to Clemens's rump. Stephen Lynch (D., Mass.) questioned Clemens at length about a "palpable mass on his buttocks," the possible result of a Winstrol injection, and Clemens himself offered this essential defense: "I worked my butt off."

He seemed at times to mistake the hearing for a referendum on his pitching, and when he was reminded that, the night before a certain controversial barbecue, his team had lost, in extra innings, Clemens replied, "Obviously, there was a no-decision, I would imagine"--meaning that he personally could not have been charged as the losing pitcher.

That barbecue, which took place at the house of the prolific juicer Jose Canseco, brought out the lone poetic moment in McNamee's otherwise terse testimony: "As I was eating a sandwich next to Mr. …

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