As Roger Clemens steps up to a microphone on the steps of a Washington D.C. courthouse, the Houston Astros clubhouse doesn't stir. Not a single player moves to put himself in front of the TV to catch a weepy, triumphant Rocket.
Clemens is relegated to a corner TV, with the volume barely loud enough to make out his words. He's only on at all because the scene is being covered by Fox News, and the channel's a staple of Major League clubhouses. The other TVs are either dark or on the College World Series.
Astros pitcher Bud Norris asks Lance McCullers, the newly-signed draft pick with the 98 MPH fastball, about a player in the College World Series. The 27-year-old Norris figures the 18-year-old McCullers will have some insights on the kids these days.
All the screaming headlines and breathless reports from the Roger Cossacks of the world could not make this trial matter.
A 49-year-old, seven-time Cy Young Award winner who avoided prison time, but still has no chance at salvaging his reputation, appears to be the last thing on their minds. If Major League Baseball players cannot even be bothered to pay attention to this mess of a Clemens trial, what chance did it ever have with the rest of America?
All the screaming headlines and breathless reports from the Roger Cossacks of the world could not make this trial matter. Any sensible sports fan knew the score long before the government went 0-for-6 against The Rocket and Rusty Hardin got his inevitable acquittal Monday afternoon. Clemens was never going to be found guilty. No jury in the world would have convicted him based on the word of creepy trainer Brian McNamee, who turned out to be a modern-day Pete Campbell, only without any of the success.
And not guilty isn't close to a clean slate.
Clemens' otherworldly pitching in his forties (including several dream seasons for the Astros) is the stuff of science fiction novels. His career took on the usual declines of an aging pitcher — until he suddenly, miraculously, got better than ever. The only thing Clemens won from this verdict is a little bit of revenge on the federal prosecutors who relentlessly pursued him for years, burning through a reported $3 million in taxpayer money, on some steroids in sports vengeance quest that almost no one but them thought was anything close to a worthy cause.
The government looked as out of touch as McNamee in this case, flailing away at the plate against a ghost of issues past.
America tuned out long ago. You would have gotten more reaction from a bad verdict on Dancing with the Stars. And rightly so. America had its priorities in order on this one.
Clemens faced two counts of perjury, one count of obstructing Congress and three counts of making false statements. But with the much more disturbing Jerry Sandusky Penn State child abuse trial going full bore with all its horrific details while Clemens' fate was being decided over "magic beer can" evidence, the Rocket's case hardly seemed important.
Trainer Brian McNamee turned out to be a modern-day Pete Campbell, only without any of the success.
Even if he had somehow been convicted, he likely would have faced only 15 to 21 months in jail under federal sentencing guidelines. That's no small things if it's a year and a half of your life, but it's not exactly the stuff of a trial of the century.
Clemens tears up talking about "his teammates" at the microphone. It's always been one of his favorite words and he goes to it again on Not Guilty Day even if he's been retired for good for five years.
"I appreciate my teammates who came in and all the emails and phone calls from my teammates," Clemens says.
Still, no current Astro bothers to look up and even guys who played with Clemens — who was beloved in every clubhouse he ever stepped into — are hardly rushing forward to celebrate. Andy Pettitte — the "teammate" Clemens really should be thanking for finding plenty of reasonable doubt in his HGH talk recall — does not want to discuss The Rocket anymore. Or his "50-50" memories.
"I don't care to talk about that," Pettitte tells reporters in New York late Monday night.
The biggest emotion during this Clemens trial turned out to be boredom.
Jurors got dismissed for sleeping. Sports fans gave a collectively grunt — or groan — and turned the channel whenever the Clemens stuff showed up on ESPN.
Forty six witnesses over nine weeks and not a single signature moment. Those are the real stats of this trial in excess.
Heck, even Houston's own master showman Hardin couldn't make this stuff interesting to anyone but the reporters paid to be in Washington D.C. It's almost as if those hell-bent-to-convict federal prosecutors were wrapped in a time warp to back when steroids in baseball actually seemed like anything more than Rich People Problems. Most of America's realized there are many more real-world issues to worry over since those first congressional hearings on steroids in baseball.
A lot's changed in America since 2005, the first time baseball players went in front of Congress — and the last time it really seemed important. Clemens didn't even testify until 2008, when he bull-headedly rushed to try and discredit the Mitchell Report like he was charging Mike Piazza with bat splinters. By then, years before he'd ever be indicted, steroids fatigue was settling in.
Still even then, it seemed like a simpler time. Few knew about Bernie Madoff except his happy investors. Penn State was still held up as a program of virtue. A real estate market still existed in Las Vegas.
The only rock solid thing to come out of the Clemens' trial is the pitcher's relationship with his four sons. Clemens' interaction with The Four Ks — Koby, Kory, Kacy and Kody — seems more than genuine. It brought the trial a sense of humanness. Clemens was even working out with them at The Mall near the Washington Monument when the verdict came in.
Roger Clemens did come across as a good dad.
Did the government need to spend $3 million to prove that?
As the TVs in the Astros clubhouse show, this bungled bore meant little else. Move along. Nothing to watch here.