Pedley: Mayfield Keeps Firing Back
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
A colleague of mine is having a real hard time negotiating his way through this whole Jeremy Mayfield thing. How in the world, this colleague wonders, can a person as guilty as NASCAR says Mayfield is, go to such extreme lengths to defend himself?
My answer to this anonymous colleague (let’s call him Larry Woody) consists of two words – Rafael and Palmeiro.
NASCAR says that Mayfield has tested positive for methamphetamines. NASCAR said he tested positive twice, in fact, for the drug.
The first test occurred on May 1. Shortly thereafter, NASCAR announced that Mayfield would be suspended from racing.
In a matter of minutes, Mayfield was shouting at the top of his lungs that he was not a meth user. He said that his test was the result of taking two legal drugs and that, he said, produced a false positive.
Then he did what all actors in bad movies do, and what stumbling drunks do as they are tossed into the street by bar-room bouncers do; he screamed, “I’ll sue!”
And he did.
Mayfield found a great lawyer, a sympathetic judge and soon was granted legal relief as a court order restored him to active duty as a Sprint Cup driver.
NASCAR had no choice but to allow Mayfield back. But officials warned Mayfield that he would be tested regularly upon his return.
Then, last week, NASCAR announced that Mayfield had again tested positive for meth, that his stepmother had come forward to say that she had personal knowledge of his drug use and that the series was asking the judge to re-instate the banishment.
In response, Mayfield turned up the indignation and the volume.
He criticized the lab where the tests were conducted, he claimed he was clean and he said some things about his stepmom that could well lead to a prime-time reality show for all involved: The Mayfields.
Geez, the colleague said, it just doesn’t make sense. Why would a man as guilty as NASCAR says he is, and a man who appears to be so obviously nailed by “facts”, keep pursuing his innocence so publicly and so vehemently.
Why does he not go the tried-and-true Jason Giambi route: Bow the head, fes up, take the lumps, throw himself on the mercy of public opinion and continue on as something of a cult hero?
Perhaps because he is innocent.
Perhaps because he found the Rafael Palmeiro route more scenic.
Palmeiro, at one time, was a very good baseball player. Perhaps Hall of Fame-good. He was also a symbol of hard work and dedication.
Today, he remains a symbol, but not one of hard work or dedication. His current personification is one of unmitigated chutzpah. Palmeiro, in his career/reputation-defining moment, opted to believe that offense is the best defense when confronted by damaging accusations about using steroids as a baseball player and his veracity as a human being.
The people who sent Palmeiro into attack mode were nothing less than members of the United States Congress. They were holding subcommittee hearings on the subject of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball and had called several ball players in for a very formal chat.
Palmeiro was one called in. He was seated at table with a microphone in front of him, just like in the movies. He was asked about his use of performance enhancing drugs.
Not only did Palmiero not wince, he broke out a large can of “how-dare-they?” indignity.
Under oath, he started denying. Then he started defiantly waving his finger at members of Congress and it was they who winced. He was not a steroid user, he said, “period”.
It all had a Capra-like effect on many viewers. Palmeiro became Jimmy Stewart only in high-def color. Take that, Congressional window-peepers. Brutishly bludgeoning a man so obviously innocent, so strong in his convictions; the bureaucrtic dogs!
A couple months later, Major League Baseball amended the script. It turns out Palmeiro should have said he was not a steroid user “question mark”.
MLB suspended Palmeiro, saying they’d found stanozolol, one of the most potent anabolic steroids available, in his test samples.
The last I heard, Palmeiro still was insisting he is innocent.
I related that historical snippet to my colleague recently. And I told him that I was still not sure if Mayfield used/uses meth.
I told him I hoped he didn’t/isn’t because, like the colleague, and many, many others who roam the NASCAR garages, I like Mayfield. A lot.
He was the first driver I interviewed as a racing beat writer and I had spent the dozen or so years since, holding him up a one of NASCAR’s gentleman drivers.
But thanks to a Major League Baseball player and his famous finger, I now think of Palmeiro and Shakespeare when I hear somebody whom I think doth protest too much.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments