(originially published Sept 2013)
These days, it’s darn near impossible to find an unblemished sports hero. Whatever the accomplishment, society is all too eager to take him or her down a peg. Athletes are people and people are flawed. Hence, there’s no such thing as a Hollywood-perfect legend.
About the most talented, they’ll always say LeBron James isn’t clutch, Peyton Manning couldn’t win enough postseason games and Tiger Woods…well, you know what they’ll say about Tiger.
Even the most innocent and idyllic of athletes can’t escape scrutiny. Tim Tebow spends spring break building homes in third-world countries? First sophomore to win the Heisman? Doesn’t matter – weirdo virgin can’t throw. Of course, Tebow’s lack of on-field success on the professional level commands some criticism.
I’ve long been perplexed by the free pass given to one particular athlete: Andy Pettitte. Pettitte retired this year after a second go-around with baseball’s premier team. Part of the revered “Core Four,” he’s mentioned in the same breath as all-time greats Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. He has tremendous stats, both regular and postseason: 256 wins; winningest postseason pitcher ever. Yet, let us not forget his shortcomings.
Pettitte is not only as dirty as A-Rod, he’s as cowardly as Ryan Braun.
Pettitte’s best friend in the whole world was Roger Clemens. He joined Rocket on the Astros in 2004 after several seasons in New York. Best buddies playing the American pastime together. Classic. At the time, the world didn’t know they shared a second hobby: HGH injections. Roger and Andy were two grown men, two best friends, making the grown man decision to use career-enhancing drugs.
Then the syringe hit the fan. Pettitte testified against Clemens, saving himself any legal penalty.
Coming clean about one’s own wrongdoings exhibits nobility and is the path to redemption. Squealing on your friends is a different story. Clemens may have been the kingpin of drug use in the locker room, but nobody forced Pettitte to stick that needle in his butt. You do the crime, you do the time. At the very least, plead ignorance when asked about your best friend’s misdeeds, even at your own expense.
Maybe I’ve just seen “Stand By Me” one too many times. But, to me, unflappable loyalty and friendship often outweighs the truth. If Gordie pulled the trigger and shot Ace dead at the end, do you think Chris Chambers would’ve told on him? Not a freaking Lachance in hell.
Andy Pettitte’s public absolution sends a mixed message. Admitting one’s missteps is a great lesson. Betraying a friend isn’t the stuff of role models.
Just a word to the wise for the other members of the Core Four: If a dog named Chopper ever chases you through Pressman’s junkyard, Pettitte might trip Jorge Posada in order to save his own steroid-shriveled balls.