Former Major League Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens was acquitted on June 18 of charges that he lied to Congress about using performance-enhancing drugs, and now the personal brand rehabilitation begins. The trial may be over for Clemens, but the association of his name with baseball’s steroid-soaked era will linger for a long while—unless he suits up and gets back on the mound.
Winning and success are the surest and fastest routes to redemption in the U.S., and though he is approaching 50, if he were to step on a pitching mound and throw heat, the drug associations would take a backseat to a new and exciting underdog narrative. Similarly, if Charlie Sheen’s new show on FX is a ratings hit and money flows freely from advertisers, the sordid stories from his recent past will fade from view, as they did for Robert Downey Jr.
But Roger Clemens will never take the mound again, unless he takes a mentoring role in spring training for one of his former teams. The Rocket will have to take a slower route to redemption. And he will seek it—to reestablish his professional legacy, protect his family name and secure his induction into baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Technically, Clemens is not guilty of anything and has not admitted to knowingly taking performance-enhancing drugs. According to Sports Illustrated, he had said in a congressional deposition in 2008, “I never used steroids. Never performance-enhancing steroids.” He also told Congress, “No matter what we discuss here today, I’m never going to have my name restored.”
That may have appeared to be the case for Clemens in 2008, but there are steps he can take to advance on the road to redemption. For Clemens, seeking forgiveness is not an option, since he has proclaimed his innocence. But he can, first of all, give back to all the communities he’s played in: Boston, Toronto, Houston, New York. He can help bring baseball back to inner cities, work with youth leagues and reactivate and promote the existing Roger Clemens Foundation. He needs to focus on the good works he can do, and not on his own bitterness.
Why should we care so much about Roger Clemens? Because the story of the rise and fall and rise again of an individual—or of an organization—is an American story. We’ve seen it happen time and again—and in those stories there are lessons for all of us.
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