Reaction to Clemens' quote rather extreme

Reaction to Clemens' quote rather extreme

A country and a fan base often scolded for being too forgiving and sympathetic when it comes to transgressing athletes sure whiffed when it came to Roger Clemens this week.

Yes, Giants fans kept cheering for Barry Bonds to the end, Yankee Stadium will shower Alex Rodriguez with welcome-back love, and in July fans in Chavez Ravine will again let their dreadlocks down and rejoice over Manny Ramirez's return.

Clemens, however, remains the pariah, in the bull's-eye of cynics who apparently want contrition. For all we know, perhaps even Dr. Phil is on his case. Maybe people just resent Clemens remaining a sturdy oak unbending in the steroids storm raging about him.

But for whatever reason, people have formed opinions about him and continue to use every tiny morsel to try to discredit him -- and to justify their judgment of him.

The mob has even misplaced its moral compass.

Take Clemens' appearance this week on ESPN radio's "Mike and Mike in the Morning" show, simulcast on ESPN2.

Listeners and watchers scornfully zeroed in on one remark during The Rocket's interview, prompted by the release of a new book delving into his alleged/presumed use of performance-enhancing drugs: His comment that taking steroids would have been suicidal for him because of a family history of heart problems.

Clemens' provocative quote:

"Our family has a history of heart conditions. My brother had a heart attack in his late 40s. My stepdad died of a heart attack."

Stepdad? A nation turned its lonely fangs to Clemens.

From lawyers to doctors to blogging fans, people ridiculed Clemens for citing a non-blood relative as a component of his own risk factor.

"How absurd!"

"Man, the guy's really reaching."

"What a joke!"

It was like people were saying a stepfather doesn't count. Not even someone like Woody Booher, whom his mother Bess married when he was 3 years old, she and Bill Clemens having divorced six weeks after his birth.

Really? The tears shed as a 9-year-old over being introduced to death aren't wet and salty? The pain over losing someone you adored isn't as acute? The hole in the heart isn't as big?

Clemens wasn't claiming his stepdad represented a genetic link to his own jeopardy. Given any benefit of the doubt, he probably only meant to indicate that seeing a loved one succumb could have scared him. Period.

We already know the guy's command of the language isn't what his command of the split-fingered fastball was. Or have you "misremembered" his remarks on Andy Pettitte? Clemens was a competitor, not a valedictorian.

Still, the nerve of the guy to invoke someone he wasn't even related to by blood.

Sports fans are judged quick to jump on a bandwagon for successful teams, but that's nothing to compare with the haste, and in what numbers, they can mount a soap box.

And try getting them off it. Justice may be blind, but apparently compassion is more than blurry.

The uproar over Clemens referencing his stepfather was voluminous, and disappointing.

"Even my eyebrows got a manic workout the instant I heard ... about how 'suicidal' it would be for him to inject any such substances considering his family's history of heart troubles," wrote Detroit News columnist Tony Paul. "His prime example: His stepfather's fatal heart attack. ... the key word of course being 'step.'"

Wrote a blogger, "Does this idiot really think that he can get heart-disease from his step-dad?"

Another: "Why bring up a man whom he shares no Chromosomes with??? Is Clemens really this stupid?"

Even Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman -- an MLB Network contributor -- wrote sarcastically that his favorite part of the ESPN interview "came when he said steroids could be bad for him because of his family history, and then cited his stepfather's heart attack as evidence."

Evidence of the agony of losing someone dear, perhaps. "Had I taken steroids, I could have subjected my wife and kids to the same agony." Maybe that's the link, nothing genetic, Clemens had tried to establish.

This is not to say Clemens is otherwise innocent. It is merely to suggest the disbelief in him extended unfairly in this example to be a sadly off-base "gotcha." People who delight in the fall from whatever he once was certainly have more objective evidence than this for their positions.

Oh ... I was raised by my stepdad, my parents having divorced when I was 6. My stepdad ushered us out of Communist Hungary to the States, paid for my college education, instilled all my values.

I am told he cried openly, out of pride, whenever I would achieve a new professional triumph. When he died, at 92, I returned the tears. The tears were our only link, but they were stronger than blood.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.