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The Score On Sports With Frank Deford

Clemens' Return: Another Summer Sequel?

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Already we're into our usual summer spectaculars — another Pirates of the Caribbean, Shrek the Third, Spider-Man 3, and, of course, Roger Clemens, going on 45.

Clemens, the best pitcher of this era, engages in an annual peek-a-boo. He retires in autumn, and then, like a perennial, decides to bloom again in the spring. He not only skips the first part of the season, he only returns if, basically, he has but to show up for work on the days he pitches. Heaven forbid that he gets almost $28 million and actually has to be a part of the team, too. This is "My Summer Vacation," by Roger Clemens.

The last couple of summers, the Houston Astros hired him under these singular circumstances, but everybody was shocked that the venerable Yankees, a franchise so steeped in team lore that it won't even allow its players to wear their names on the back of the hallowed pinstripes, also agreed to accept Roger's Rules of Disorder.

Now, it's always been my feeling that teams don't have to be vessels of congeniality and fellowship to succeed. But what teams won't abide is special dispensation for certain members.

Of course, the annals of sport are filled with examples of desperate teams bringing in difficult stars. Surely, the feeling goes, I, the owner, or I, the coach, am so special that the scoundrel will mend his ways here. Ah, and the divorce courts are filled with women convinced that they are so attractive that the tomcat would surely change his stripes for her.

However, metamorphosis does occur just enough in sports to encourage this wistfulness. More often, though, there is the likes of Terrell Owens, he diagnosed with modesty deficiency syndrome, who was signed by Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboys owner — certain that the America's Team mystique would cure T.O. of his vanity and change him into a veritable St. Francis of Assisi in shoulder pads. Instead, more predictably, Owens roiled the team and essentially drove the frazzled coach into retirement.

Now, the New England Patriots, the most precious team-oriented NFL franchise, have taken on Randy Moss, an Owens act-alike. Obviously, Coach Bill Belichick believes that he owns the powers of alchemy that no other of Moss' coaches possessed. Good grief, even Al Davis, patron saint of bad boys, gave up on Moss. But we shall see. Wide receivers are the most conflicted players in sport. They are glamour-pusses, but they must utterly depend on someone else — the quarterback — to get them the ball. Moss, I imagine, isn't thinking he's going to a team named the Patriots. He's going to a team where Tom Brady can throw him complete passes.

Meanwhile, in his schedule of convenience, Clemens will soon make his first start for the Yankees. I suspect he better be good, or, soon enough, those off days of his are going to become an irritant for the 24 other working stiffs.

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Sweetness And Light

Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light

The Score On Sports With Frank Deford