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Roger Clemens Picks His Poison: When the Lie is Worse Than The Crime

What's worse, taking steroids or lying about it to Congress? What the Roger Clemens perjury case tells us about our "national epidemic of lying."

What’s the Big Idea?

In the wake of DSK’s reversal of fortune and the Casey Anthony verdict comes another sensational legal event–the perjury case against former Major League Baseball star Roger Clemens. Following the lead of the legal talking heads, sports commentators are now sizing up the potential for entertainment value in the Clemens case. One described it as “like fantasy sports, only with jail.”

On the other hand, the Clemens trial may well prove a ratings disappointment, as the Rocket is one in a long line of athletes to be publicly shamed for using performance-enhancing drugs. ESPN’s Shaun Assael told Big Think our “national obsession toward sports [has] gone a little too far and we are into self-correcting mode.” If it is true, as Assael suggests, that our society has already moved past the so-called “steroid era” in baseball and other sports, what is the significance of the Clemens trial?

What’s the Significance?

The Clemens case is one in which the cover-up may have been far worse than the original crime. After all, Clemens has been tried (and by many accounts, found guilty) in the court of public opinion for tarnishing the reputation of the national pastime. And yet he is being tried in the court of law for lying to Congress, an incredibly brash and unnecessary act considering he was volunteering his testimony. So the injured party in this case is the government and its ability to conduct investigations. (The timing just happens to be particularly bad for baseball. Next week the spotlight will be on the game’s most talented players at the All-Star game to be held in Phoenix.)

Yet Clemens is hardly the first baseball player to be accused of cheating, and then lying about it. Remember Barry Bonds? James Stewart does. In his book Tangled Webs: How American Society is Drowning in Lies, Stewart argues there is a national epidemic of lying. He places Bonds in the company of some other notorious liars of recent years–Martha Stewart, Bernie Madoff and Scooter Libby.

Watch the Big Think interview with Stewart here:


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