Most of you never heard of
But back in the 1940s, Beard was a terrific All-American basketball player who led Kentucky to two national championships and the United States to a gold medal in the 1948 Olympics.
He was already a first-team NBA All-Star when it was revealed that he had taken money from gamblers to shave points in games at Kentucky.
Beard, like so many other players of that era, was summarily banned for life from the game. He admitted his guilt, too, saying that he had simply grown up poor and just couldn't resist taking the money. He lost it all for only about $700, branded forever as a fixer.
We tend to be more critical of athletes who conspire to lose, like Ralph Beard, rather than those who cheat trying to win, like steroid users. That's often dismissed as just being canny, looking for an edge. Why,
But the fact is, it makes no difference in which direction an athlete cheats; either way he is distorting fairness, which is the very essence of sport. Ralph Beard's transgressions cost his own team victory. If
Now, of course, Clemens has taken a refrain from so many other guilty athletes' lyrics by claiming that he didn't know that he was being given a banned substance.
The sad and bizarre phone call with McNamee that Clemens taped last Friday and then played in public seemed only, to me, to confirm the pitcher's guilt. McNamee was distraught for having testified against his old friend and meal ticket. Time and time again, he pleaded: what do you want me to do, Roger?
Wouldn't an innocent man, with the tape secretly running, say: just tell the truth, Brian. Clemens so often told McNamee that he wanted the truth out, but when McNamee specifically asked Clemens what he should do, Clemens did not flat out ask him to tell the truth. Because, one can only surmise, then McNamee would say that he had already done that. And never did McNamee volunteer that he had lied. He seemed only to regret that the truth had hurt so.
All right, I'm sorry. Perhaps I'm just too cynical and hard-hearted. Perhaps I have just heard it all too often -- even emotionally, to my face -- from athletes claiming, with just as much dramatic insistence as Clemens supplied, that they were innocent, only to be convicted later.
Even after he told the truth, Ralph Beard spent more than 50 years of his life in shame. If Roger Clemens is guilty, then he deserves no better. Let's put the right word on it. Any player who took steroids is a fixer. He fixed games.