Are you tired of hearing about Roger Clemens? We sure are. But he’s made his way back into this week’s AtD alongside Tim Donaghy and the men’s track and field, swimming and diving, wrestling and basketball teams. The competitors are staff writer Duncan Slobodzian, nation & world editor Kristen Lord and sports assistant Michael O’Donnell. Last week’s winner, staff writer Justin Jez, is the ref.
1) Coming into the NBA season the league was marred by the controversy surrounding referee Tim Donaghy’s betting scandal. Has this season’s slew of blockbuster trades helped to take attention away from the scandal and help revitalize the league?
DS: The high-profile trades have helped the NBA recover its image in the public eye, but they have been just one of several components. First and foremost is the way the scandal was handled by commissioner David Stern and other league higher-ups. They painted Donaghy as a “rogue official” who was working without an accomplice, a deeply troubled compulsive gambler who went to illegal lengths to pay his debts. There’s been no evidence to the contrary, suggesting that there weren’t any other people involved. Stern was betrayed alongside the rest of the fanbase. The product on the court has helped revitalize things more than any public relations statement could. The Eastern Conference boasts genuine contenders and the West is stronger than in any season in recent memory. The strong contingent of young talent – players like LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Deron Williams – has invigorated support, as on display this past All-Star Weekend. Consistently quality talent across the league can help any fan or commentator forget the wrongdoing of one crooked referee.
KL: I would say the latest trades have taken the spotlight away from the scandal, but that’s not to say the issue still isn’t on the backburner. Donaghy is set to be sentenced in April, which pretty much guarantees him to make headlines again. The NBA’s image has taken a number of hits but this season’s trading frenzy has put more focus on the actual game of basketball. The fallout from this latest scandal will have a bigger impact on the league than the news of Jason Kidd going to the Mavericks or Ron Artest wanting to be traded from the Kings. Stern has already taken steps in an attempt to move the NBA forward by reinforcing the rules on gambling, hiring a new league executive and reducing the duties for league executives Stu Jackson and Ronnie Nunn. Mixing up the teams this season could certainly help the league, but the drama created from the scandal could manage to help revitalize the league from the inside out.
MO: Absolutely. All the trades this season have taken away from the scandal. When was the last time anyone’s heard about Donaghy? People are focused on new Phoenix Sun Shaquille O’Neal, the Jason-Kidd-to-the-Mavs saga, the steal of the trade by the Lakers for Pau Gasol and the Boston Three-Party. Besides the trades that have already occurred, there are certainly more that are possible and teams are searching for several potential playoff pieces on the market. The bottom line is this: Donaghy is now an afterthought. He was punished for his crime, he is no longer a referee, and the NBA is now more vigilant in its search for corrupt officials within the league. The NBA this season is about what it should be about: basketball.
JJ: 3 points go to Duncan. I was looking for exactly what you said about the NBA distancing itself from the issue by making Donaghy out to be a “rogue official.” Lord, I was not even aware about some of the changes you mentioned and I liked the point that Donaghy will be in the media spotlight soon – 2 points. Mike, we all already know about the trades that happened – 1 point.
2) Which of the College’s men’s varsity teams will have the best Winter postseason?
DS: I’ll say the track and field team would be justified in having really high hopes. The season is young, granted, but they have already shown some real promise and demonstrated balance in their strengths. The Lions held their own at the recent Rider/LaFayette Invitational at the 168th Street Armory, competing alongside Division I athletes. The New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championships have been feasting grounds for the Lions runners. The College has swept all 10 titles on both the men’s and women’s sides. There’s not too much reason to expect differently this year, as a number of underclassmen complement the returning runners and track athletes.
KL: While both the men’s swimming (7-3) and wrestling (19-3) teams have concluded the regular season with impressive records, my bet would be on the wrestlers to do the best in the postseason. The wrestling team has dominated the competition lately and holds a nine-game winning streak. I think its current momentum will help it succeed in the upcoming NCAA Championships. Granted, the wrestlers face some tough competition, but the College has proved itself to be a tough competitor in previous tournaments by producing three champions at the Brute Sunshine Open earlier in the season.
MO: The men’s swimming and diving team is set to have the best postseason. With a 7-3 record, including an undefeated 4-0 record in the friendly confines of the College’s Aquatic Center, the Lions are set to end the season on a high note. The College’s unit has so many playmakers, including junior Mike Molloy, who dominated last week’s events against rival Ramapo College. Molloy grabbed three first-place finishes in his events, and he led the team to a blowout victory. Also, fellow junior Greg Lloyd set several records against New York University (NYU) just two weekends ago, including College records as well as NYU records. This type of playmaking ability and leadership is what truly intrigues me about this unit, and I believe this team will make it far into the postseason.
JJ: 3 points go to Lord because I also believe that the wrestling team will do very well in the postseason. History has shown that their stars can carry them far. Mike and Duncan get 2 points each for giving equally convincing arguments for the men’s swimming and diving and track and field teams.
3) Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee met with Congress last week regarding the use of performance-enhancing drugs. What, if any, damage is being done to the image of MLB due to this latest steroid scandal?
DS: At this point, the only party concerned with repairing its image is the Clemens camp. Baseball has commented on the institutional failures that allowed rampant steroid abuse to occur and the policies that all but encouraged it to persist over a decade of play. The numbers that were put up – inflated as they were – will still stand, and the impossibility of prosecuting every steroid user speaks to the breadth of the issue. Bud Selig and other baseball executives have to understand that the best public relations strategy is adopting a forward-looking strategy and accepting responsibility for educating younger generations. Clemens has taken the opposite approach and done everything from releasing one-sided reports about his statistics to throwing his wife under the bus to defend himself. His feverish desire to prove his case stands in curious contrast to the fact that even he admitted at the hearing that regardless of what happens, his name will never be fully restored.
KL: This latest steroid scandal is serving to taint MLB’s image even more than has already been done. Watching one of the league’s best pitchers squirm on a nationally televised congressional hearing was nothing but humiliating for MLB. This he-said/he-said squabble between McNamee and Clemens has taken on a life of its own, including the intricate web of lies, the possible perjury, the damaged reputations and the constant media scrutiny. Even worse, MLB is now seeing its players turn on one another. Andy Pettitte basically deemed the Rocket a liar in his deposition. Several other players in the league have taken their own stances on the situation. As yet another steroid scandal continues on, it seems the fallout from the steroid era has done as much damage to MLB as the drugs themselves.
MO: This scandal hurts baseball, but it more specifically ruins one man’s credibility and character. Clemens is arguably the greatest pitcher of his generation, and the fact that his testimony at the congressional hearings included stuttering, arguments and dissension with committee members and a weak argument against Pettitte hurts his reputation. Clemens and his attorney had once before and continue to call Pettitte and his wife “honorable and honest people” despite the fact that Pettitte continues to stick by his story that Clemens had taken illegal substances in the past. McNamee clearly came off much worse on television, but Clemens did not look much better and tried his best to proclaim his innocence despite much evidence against him. The era of Clemens and Bonds will always be known as the “Steroid Era,” and now with the most prolific hitter and pitcher of this era under scrutiny, the credibility of America’s pastime will be in serious jeopardy until this entire mess gets cleaned up.
JJ: Duncan earns 3 points for his astute observations. Lord gets 2 points for including the fact that rampant coverage of this issue creates a subconscious unnerving for baseball fans. I have to give Mike the 1.
THE WINNER’S CIRCLE:
“This victory really belongs to Debbie Clemens.” -Duncan