American Icon


So today Sports Illustrated’s website ran an excerpt from the upcoming book, American Icon: The Fall of Roger Clemens and the Rise of Steroids in America’s Pastime. Obviously, having also written a Clemens biography and having busted my tail to beat their book to the shelves, I was pretty interested to see what they had.

My reaction: Meh.

Considering that our industry is melting and book sales are drooping, I hope the folks who did American Icon—all members of the New York Daily News’ investigative sports team—sell a million books. I really, truly do (I’d be jealous, admittedly, but happy for them and for the business). Unlike The Rocket That Fell to Earth, which focuses on Clemens’ entire life, this offering details only 1998 through today. So it’s much different. That said, just being honest, I was really, really, really, really, really, really underwhelmed by the excerpt. To me, it speaks directly to the tough situation newspaper reporters are placed in when they write a book on a subject their employer is assigning them to cover. The authors were being paid by the Daily News to dig up as much Clemens goop as possible, so they couldn’t really hold the good stuff for the book. Hence, we’re left with the heated leftovers that appear in the excerpt.

I’m excited to read American Icon, because it’s a subject that consumed much of my life, and I know those guys worked extremely hard. I wish the writers well, and—again—hope it sells. But thus far, as a reader, I’m not dazzled.

Here’s their release, in case anyone’s curious about the book (I’m baffled why the publisher used such weak language, including, “and suggests that he may have perjured himself while testifying before Congress.” Ahem, no need for ‘he may have.’ He did.


Roger Clemens Subject of Devastating Portrait in New Book
by Award-Winning Daily News Sports Investigative Team

Sports Illustrated to Excerpt American Icon in print and on

NEW YORK, 20-Apr-09 — A new book by the award-winning New York Daily News Sports Investigative Team portrays Roger Clemens as both a compromised player and a person of questionable conduct, a man destroyed by his own pride, dishonesty, and judgment.  The book, AMERICAN ICON: The Fall of Roger Clemens and the Rise of Steroids in America’s Pastime (to be published by Alfred A. Knopf on May 12), explores Clemens’s use of banned substances, details his dalliances with women, and suggests that he may have perjured himself while testifying before Congress.  Sports Illustrated has purchased first serial rights to the book, and will excerpt it on April 21 and in its April 27 issue (on newsstands April 22).

“No player in baseball’s long and rich history has fallen from grace as fast and as far as Roger Clemens,” the authors write in AMERICAN ICON. “Clemens’s fall is straight out of Greek mythology: The very traits that made him dominant on the pitcher’s mound, his tenacity and mercilessness, contributed to and possibly even caused his downfall.”

AMERICAN ICON is the first book to offer compelling, insider details on Clemens’s life between 1998 and 2009.  Drawing from a damning trove of documentary evidence and interviews with people who have never before gone on record, the authors paint a stark picture of Clemens.  Their reporting culminates with Clemens unraveling in the wake of the Mitchell Report, when a series of choices transformed him from a Cooperstown shoo-in to the subject of a Justice Department perjury investigation. “This is a drama about cheating and lying and fame,” the authors write, “all the elements that seem to have taken over and dominated what once was America’s purest and favorite sport.”

The Daily News I-Team—Teri Thompson, Nathaniel Vinton, Michael O’Keeffe, and Christian Red—are known for their deep sourcing and authoritative reporting (they recently won an APSE Award for Best Investigative Reporting in 2008, for their Clemens coverage). The I-Team has been at the forefront of many major sports stories since it was formed in 2000, and for this book, the team’s reporting took them all over America. They unearthed thousands of pages of court documents, congressional depositions, e-mails, text messages, police reports, medical files, and transcripts of secretly recorded phone calls. They interviewed hundreds of people—among them Hall of Fame baseball players, steroid suppliers, trainers, doctors, gym rats, porn stars, drug dealers, Major League Baseball executives, Players Association officials, congressional leaders, law enforcement agents, attorneys, and doping experts. During their investigation, they were threatened with both lawsuits and violence. “It was challenging and difficult work,” they write.

The I-Team made repeated requests to interview Roger Clemens for the book. All of them were denied.