Clemens, Armstromg, Francesa and the Culture of Denial
Denial. There used to be a time when this word was used as a set-up to a joke whose punchline was: it's a river in Egypt. But the times they are a-changin'. Today denial seems to be the default setting for anyone in the world of sports who gets into any kind of tough spot.
For those of you who don't live in the New York metropolitan area or otherwise missed it on numerous other national feeds, local sports talk radio gasbag Mike Francesa fell asleep on the air last week while talking to WFAN colleague Sweeny Murti about his beloved New York Yankees. If this were old-time radio, Francesa's afternoon nap would have gone unnoticed, but because his show is broadcast on television every day on the YES Network, he was busted by hundreds, if not thousands, of couch potatoes. If you caught the video, it was actually quite hilarious. Mike wakes with a start from his slouched-shoulder sleep and starts looking at his producer as if to ask, "what did I miss?" But instead of owning up to it, Francesa did what so many of the sports figures he covers and critiques do, he denied that it happened. Francesa chose to explain it away days later by saying he was resting his eyes, which is pretty similar to the classic: "I wasn't drunk, I was just tired" excuse, which never gets old. He then went on to blame his tireless work ethic, his kid, and capped it all off by mentioning that he's up for a broadcasting award. It was almost as funny as the snooze itself.
This minor thing with Francesa just brought to mind major denials in sports from guys like Roger Clemens, Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds... the list goes on and on. Just like those big names, Francesa could have avoided a week's worth of ridicule and jokes from the press and his listeners. Unlike those stars, Francesa really had nothing to lose. He was caught, not doing drugs, or accepting a bribe, but sleeping with someone... that someone being himself. Whatever happened to owning your actions and making fun of yourself? What's to be lost by making a joke about it and moving on? Instead, Francesa took a page out of the sports personality playbook he often is paid to dissect. He should have known better, but he couldn't help but act the part of superstar.
None of this, of course, will affect Francesa's job or perception among the public. Everyone thought he was a jerk to begin with. But when will anyone in the world of sports once again pick up the banner of "honesty is the best policy" and run with it. Have we learned nothing? Apparently not.