Baseball is a particular passion of mine. Although I was never an accomplished player by any means, to me there is nothing like being at the old ball park. This is one of my favorite times of year as Spring Training gets into full swing.
It has been a few years since the steroid scandal rocked Major League Baseball. Hopefully, we are past that sad chapter in the history of the game. However, there is one lesson from the steroid scandal that companies and organizations can take to heart in terms of how to deal with a “crisis.”
You remember the basic facts: Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, long-time friends and work-out partners were accused by their trainer of using performance enhancing drugs. The assertion clearly constituted a crisis for both Clemens and Pettitte. The dramatically different ways they handled their crisis, and the resulting fallout, is a textbook example of how to handle…and not handle…crises.
For his part, Andy Pettitte ‘fessed up. He admitted he used, made himself available to investigators, the media and issued an apology to fans. He did it at the very start of Spring Training 2008. During the off-season he had also responded under oath to a question and asserted that Clemens had used, too.
Clemens denied it and went on the offensive, even in the face of mounting evidence that he had used. He lawyered up, went on 60 Minutes and claimed that his good friend Andy had simply “mis-remembered” when he testified that Clemens had used PED’s.
After Pettitte’s public mea culpa, the story largely went away for him. The next time the world at large saw him, he was hoisting the championship trophy as the winning pitcher for the New York Yankees in the sixth and deciding game of the 2009 World Series. For Clemens, hunkered down somewhere in Texas, the story is still not over and won’t be over for quite some time as his case is winding through the federal court system.
The moral of this story is that people more easily forgive mistakes than they do arrogance. Pettitte admitted his mistake. Clemens denied the accusations and in the process projected an arrogance that has hardly won him much sympathy. In fact, in spite of a storied career, Clemens’ use of PED’s will likely become the defining point of his legacy. For Pettitte, it will be a footnote.
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