These were the words uttered by pitching great Roger Clemens last Thursday when he was indicted for obstructing a congressional investigation and denying, under oath, that he used steroids and Human Growth Hormones (HGH) during his career in baseball.
“I never took HGH or Steroids. And I did not lie to Congress,” he Tweeted after his not-guilty plea. “I look forward to challenging the Governments accusations, and hope people will keep an open mind until trial. I appreciate all the support I have been getting. I am happy to finally have my day in court.”
Clemens. Bonds. Canseco. Sosa. McGwire. The list goes on and on. At the famous 2005 congressional hearing on cracking down on steroid use in baseball, this exchange between Rep. William Lacy Clay (D., Mo.) and McGwire broke my heart:
Rep. Clay: “Mr. McGwire, we are both fathers of young children. Both my son and daughter love sports and they look up to stars like you. Can we look at those children with a straight face and tell them that great players like you play the game with honesty and integrity?”
McGwire: “Like I said earlier, I’m not going to go into the past and talk about my past.”
I remembered vividly McGwire’s young son meeting him at home plate after he surpassed Roger Maris’s home run record. How proud that little boy must have been of his father. How McGwire’s son must feel now after his father, just this year, admitted using steroids and HGH during his playing career.
I, too, have children, both baseball players, both hero worshipers. The theme of steroid use in Testarossa was a direct result of this issue—and McGwire in particular—and the effect it had on my then-ten-year-old-son. I remember the tears in his eyes as he ripped the almost life-sized poster of McGwire down off the wall above his bed, and how, with almost ceremonial care he broke the Hallmark Christmas ornament of the buffed-up Cardinal and threw it in the trash. Is the subject of steroids in sports an interesting topic? If you’re into sports, perhaps it is. Is it a sexy topic for a crime fiction novel? Many publishers who turned Testarossa down agreed that it was not. I think as writers it is our duty to give voice to topics of all kinds, whether sexy or not. When I told a friend recently that the sequel to Testarossa would feature a serial killer, he informed me that serial killers have been done to death (nice pun). Rather than be scared off the topic, I’m vowing to do it better, which is why the sequel is taking so darned long. How about another book about child molesters? I’ll read it if it will shed additional light and keep people talking.
I, and many of us, will look forward to hearing what happens with Mr. Clemens and his future, both as a Hall-of-Famer and as a potential prisoner. One thing is for sure: this subject is not over. I’d love for the day to come when I no longer have to talk about this. Until that day, you’ll be hearing more from me on the subject. Turns out, I may have one or two opportunities to be interviewed on sports radio on the subject of steroids from a mother’s and a writer’s point of view, so perhaps you’ll hear from me again sooner than you think.
I am grateful for the opportunity to write what I feel is important, both here in blog form and in paperback. If I can touch one person and get them to think about steroid use, then I’ve struck gold. Whatever happens beyond that is gravy.
I, as always, welcome your comments.