Thursday, February 14, 2008

Chocolate Cake and Steroids

How ironic that on the night I was teaching the 9th commandment (“Do not give false testimony against your neighbor”) in a Wednesday night class, Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee were wrapping up a day of false testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in Washington, D.C. We don’t know for sure whose testimony was false, but everyone agrees that their stories are so contradictory and mutually incriminating, at least one of them is lying.

It is a sad spectacle, and a huge fall from grace for Clemens, one of Houston’s long-time sports heroes and favored sons. McNamee, Clemens’ longtime personal trainer, claims he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone (HGH) between 16 and 21 times from 1998-2001. If McNamee is telling the truth, it is hard to regard Clemens’ athletic brilliance with anywhere near the same admiration. After all, for the last ten years part, of Clemens’ great appeal has been how he has seemingly defied the effects of aging through rigorous fitness and training. He has pitched superbly into his mid-40’s! If you believe McNamee is telling the truth, (and Clemens’ friend Andy Pettit’s testimony against Clemens is particularly incriminating because Pettit admits his own guilt in taking HGH a few times), it is increasingly painful and aggravating to hear Clemens’ strident denials.

When I was 19 years old, I walked into a dorm mate’s room, saw he wasn’t there, spied a delicious looking chocolate cake (already eaten from) on his desk, and took a slice back to my room. When he later asked me about it, I denied taking the slice of cake. Never mind that he would have been happy to share it with me! Never mind that there were chocolate crumbs leading from his room to mine! Never mind that our two suitemates joined him in saying, “C’mon, just admit it and we’ll forget about it!” Once I began denying it, my increasingly passionate defense actually precluded me (in my mind) from changing my story and admitting guilt. The Chocolate Cake Chronicle makes me cringe with embarrassment even a quarter century later. But I learned a good lesson: The longer you deny something, and the more people you deny it to, the harder it is to admit your guilt.

I am sure you can tell by now that I am suspicious of Clemens’ claims of innocence. But that is impossible to prove presently. We may never know the whole truth, and that is not my point for writing this anyway. My point is that if you are following the Clemens/McNamee story at all, I hope the singular lesson you take away is how much more honorable (not to mention simpler) life is when you conduct yourself honestly and tell the truth.

Some of the most powerful things in life are very simple like that.

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment (Proverbs 12:18-19).

P.S. David, I took the slice of cake. But then, you already knew that.


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