So former Yankees pitching ace Roger "The Rocket" Clemens got himself indicted for lying to Congress about his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs.
As Bugs Bunny used to say, "What a maroon."
Put aside the incredible irony of being charged with lying to an assemblage of hypocrites with such a tenuous grasp of truth-telling. By voluntarily testifying before Congress, Clemens put himself in the crosshairs and pulled the trigger.
At the request of Commissioner Bud Selig, former Sen. George Mitchell investigated the use of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball and issued a report on his findings in 2007. Among other allegations, it said that Clemens used anabolic steroids on multiple occasions in 1998, 2000, and 2001, while playing for the Yankees and the Toronto Blue Jays. The charges were based primarily on information provided by Clemens' longtime strength trainer, Brian McNamee.
In response, Clemens issued a statement explicitly denying his use of steroids and proclaimed that he would testify to that effect before Congress, which was conducting its own investigation of drug use in baseball. This led to his appearing before a House committee without being subpoenaed.
McNamee and Clemens sat at either end of the committee room's witness table. McNamee testified in a steady, sober manner. Clemens, meanwhile, put on a lip-licking, eye-darting performance that was almost a parody of the evasive witness. It was painful to watch, and it left little doubt as to who was telling the truth.
In light of this embarrassing performance, one is left to wonder why Clemens did this to himself without even being subpoenaed and compelled to testify.
History provides an illuminating analogy. In 1948, the House Un-American Activities Committee was investigating communist penetration of the federal government. Whitaker Chambers, an editor of Time magazine and former member of the communist underground, testified before the HUAC that he and Alger Hiss had been fellow members of the American Communist Party.
Hiss was a Harvard Law graduate who had clerked for a Supreme Court justice and held a highly influential position in the State Department. By the time Chambers accused him of having been a communist, he had left government to become president of the prestigious Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Hiss insisted on appearing before the HUAC, where, under oath, he denied Chambers' charge. When Chambers repeated the accusation in a radio broadcast, Hiss sued for defamation. This ill-advised lawsuit prompted Chambers to produce evidence that Hiss had been a Soviet spy while working at the State Department.
Ultimately, Hiss was convicted of perjury and sent to prison - primarily on the testimony of Chambers, an admitted communist who acknowledged having engaged in espionage and deceit.
The parallels between Hiss and Clemens are striking. Each was highly respected for his accomplishments in his field - a golden boy. Compared to the well-spoken and regal Hiss, Chambers was a fat, dumpy unknown, and he was accusing this much-admired, highly accomplished establishment figure of unimaginable treachery.
Similarly, McNamee, a mere strength trainer, has accused Clemens of reaching the pinnacle of his sport by using steroids. Compared to Clemens, NcNamee is a drug-dealing nobody.
Now Clemens is following Hiss' path to perdition. Just as Hiss wrongly calculated that he could prevail by pitting his impeccable reputation and stellar persona against the tawdry character of his accuser, so Clemens seems to have believed that he, an object of adoration for millions of fans, would be credited over a lowly trainer and admitted drug dealer.
But like the conceited and imperious Hiss, Clemens has been brought down by his own unmitigated arrogance - his delusional belief in his own invincibility. And now he is headed to criminal court, where he will be playing for the highest stakes of his life.
So here is some free legal advice for Clemens as he prepares for trial: Forget your fastball. Before you try to blow your story by the next tribunal, work on your lip-licking, eye-darting delivery. It's a really bad look.