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Vegans, Congress and Clemens?

May 29, 2008
One of the most surreal scenes in recent sports history was the back-and-forth that took place between baseball star pitcher and purported steroid injector Roger Clemens and U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa.

“Have you ever been a vegetarian,” the congressman asks Clemens.

“I am not a vegetarian,” Clemens responds with a half-smile on his face, now sitting on a head that is currently 10 times the size it was in 1996.

Braley, spoken as if closing in on the great key to the steroid controversy, presses on.

“Have you ever been a vegan,” Braley continues.

“I’m sorry,” Clemens responds quizzically.

“A vegan,” Braley brashly returns with a hint of the bravado reminiscent of Tom Cruise’s character in ‘A Few Good Men’ as he is slowly breaking Jack Nicholson on the stand.

“I’m sorry ... I don’t know what that is,” Clemens admits, with both a hint of embarrassment and sarcasm.

It was such an odd scene ... witnessing a guy that we, as sporting fans, had come accustomed to seeing either running through the tunnel on his way to the mound or giving politically correct answers during postgame interviews.

But, what was stranger? Seeing Clemens dumbfounded as he answered questions about his daily dietary regiment or the fact that Congress was spending so much time on this issue in the first place?

Obviously, Congress has not gotten its fill of sports related topics, because U.S. Sen. Arlen Spector, R-Pa., is on a mission to bring down Bill Belichick and apparently the entire NFL over the spygate issue, if it is the last thing he does.

Spector’s obsessiveness over this issue has done the impossible — turned Belichick into the victim. For a guy that has become the Darth Vader of the NFL world, what Spector has done is as stunning as it is hilarious.

After all, no one would ever think that a team breaking NFL rules by taping the practice or walk-through of an opponent the week before the game would be an issue of emminent domain. Since when does Congress get involved in such activities?

We could begrudgingly accept the farcical steroid hearings, which turned into nothing more than a glorified media circus with Congress acting as the ring leader. The rampant use of steroids could have an impact on the youth of this country and could lead to premature player deaths.

But, now we have a United States senator in a time of war probing into an issue that is of no serious consequence to anyone?

I can just hear Congressman Baley peppering Belichick with hard-hitting questions like:

“Have you ever owned a Betamax?”

“Have you ever been to Blockbuster?”

“Were you at Circuit City on date of November 3, 2003, purchasing blank tapes and, if so, how many blanks did you buy?”

How long before Congress starts delving into issues even more benign? I will never forget how my Cleveland Browns defeated the hated Baltimore Ravens last season. Phil Dawson drilled a 51-yard field goal which hit off of the center support beam, or stanchion, and bounced back into the field of play.

The kick was ruled as no good before the officials had a meeting at center field for 10 minutes and then ruled the kick good. The players had to trot back onto the field and the Browns took the game in overtime.

As a Browns’ fan, I am just fortunate that this play happened before federal over-sight of everything sports related.

I can just see those officials meeting at the 50-yard line when, suddenly, the head referee picks up his direct-line cellular phone to the White House.

“After further review by the president of the United States, the kick is no good.”

This might sound ridiculous, but is it any more far fetched than Spector spending his valuable time in office worrying about whether or not the Patriots taped an opponent prior to a game?

The United States is averaging almost 50 deaths per month in Iraq so far this year and that does not include those maimed. That number also does not include the number of civilian casualties.

Yet, Spector wants to know why the NFL commissioner destroyed a couple of tapes made by a guy who works for the New England Patriots of some opponent practices.

When will the circus end?

(Newman, a resident of Steubenville, can be contacted at

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