Hearing Is One Thing, Seeing It Is Another

Roger Clemens was advised by attorney Lanny Breuer before answering a question during Wednesday's proceedings.
Roger Clemens was advised by attorney Lanny Breuer before answering a question during Wednesday's proceedings. (By Nikki Kahn -- The Washington Post)
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By George Solomon
Sunday, February 17, 2008

Unless a Washington-based team beats the odds and wins a championship, the year in sports for us will be best defined by a hearing this past week on Capitol Hill.

Whereas we were once characterized by legends such as Sammy Baugh, Walter Johnson, Wes Unseld, Red Auerbach, John Thompson, Frank Howard, Sonny Jurgensen, Morgan Wootten, Darrell Green and John Riggins, the face of Washington sports in 2008 belongs to Rep. Henry A. Waxman.

Henry Waxman?

Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, whose zany group held a 4 1/2 -hour hearing on Wednesday that pitted Roger Clemens against Brian McNamee, his former trainer.

The hearing seemed to line up in some kind of batting order that set Republican committee members against McNamee and Democrats against Clemens -- with ESPN polling the country for winners and losers and some newspaper columnists who have trouble reading a traffic ticket deciding the guilt or innocence of two men supposedly not on trial.

All to learn whether McNamee injected Clemens -- one of the great pitchers of all time -- with steroids and HGH as Andy Pettitte, Clemens's friend and former teammate, said in a recent deposition.

But here was Virginia Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, the ranking Republican on the committee, announcing before Wednesday's first pitch "this is not a court of law; we're here to save lives and not ruin careers." And Waxman telling the New York Times in its Friday editions, "I'm sorry we had the hearing, I regret that we had the hearing."

To borrow a phrase often used by my friend Tony Kornheiser, "What are you talking about?"

Henry, sweetheart, you and Davis called the hearing and now you tell the Times you did it because Clemens's "lawyers told us he wanted the opportunity to make his case in public."

Henry, you hold these hearings because, while the subject is important to sports wonks like me, you know you'll get hours of face time on ESPN, all the news shows and C-SPAN. Just like last month when you brought Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig and MLB Players Association chief Donald Fehr to whack them around. Again.

Good theater.

It's the reason Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) brought NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to town on Wednesday (was that playing the small lounge, or what?) to discuss Patriots Coach Bill Belichick taping opponents since 2002 and legitimately asking why Goodell trashed those tapes. (I have two questions for Belichick: Was David Tyree on any tape you ever saw? How come Bud Greenspan was never one of your coordinators?)

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