Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

For Bonds

For Bonds, what’s done is done
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, March 15, 2006

In the pagan cult of celebrity worship that some suggest is America’s real religion, San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds appears to have entered the destruct cycle. As recently as 2004, the 41-year-old left fielder seemed destined to become what baseball calls, with no seeming irony, an “immortal.”  Long one of baseball’s premier outfielders, a perennial all-star and “five tool” athlete, Bonds experienced an astonishing late-career metamorphosis that caused many to describe him as maybe the greatest player in the game’s history—and others as merely its greatest cheat. In 2001, Bonds broke the single-season home run record with 73. He enters 2006 needing only 41 home runs to surpass Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron as baseball’s all-time career leader, all but guaranteeing enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame. If, that is, the gimpy knee that sidelined Bonds for most of 2005 holds up, the current outcry among sportswriters and broadcasters to have him banished from baseball as a steroid cheater fails, and he escapes indictment for perjuring himself before a San Francisco grand jury probing illegal prescription drug use by athletes.

Granted, that’s a lot of maybes.  But if I were Pete Rose, the former Cincinnati Reds star banished from major league baseball for gambling, I’d lay odds that Bonds will accomplish every one of those goals.  Indeed, the simplest thing might be to induct Rose and Bonds into the Hall of Fame together to get the boycotting, booing and political posturing out of the way all at once.

The cause of the latest furor over Bonds is Sports Illustrated’s publication of an excerpt from a book called “Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO and the Steroids Scandal That Rocked Professional Sports.”  Written by San Francisco Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, it details a federal investigation into what it hyperbolically calls “a conspiracy to corrupt the world of sports, a plot to engineer athletic superiority through an array of sophisticated and undetectable performance-enhancing drugs.”

Seemingly because Bonds was the biggest fish in the prosecutor’s net, he gets the full Kenneth Starr-style treatment.  Besides obtaining leaked grand jury transcripts, confidential federal agents’ notes, unredacted affidavits and evidence lists, the authors interviewed more than 200 sources, many anonymous. Some is what lawyers call “double hearsay,” what somebody says somebody else said Bonds said.

Indeed, the enormous amount of confidential grand jury information given to the reporters may indicate that Bonds needn’t fear perjury charges. As Starr’s leak-o-matic investigation demonstrated, prosecutors who think they can make criminal cases normally keep the evidence to themselves.

Much of the Sports Illustrated excerpt consists of the “revelations” of Bonds ’ embittered former mistress, who unloads the entire angry courtesan’s play book. According to Kimberly Bell, Bonds turned to illegal steroid doping late in his career due to childish jealousy at the attention given Bunyanesque slugger Mark McGwire, whose 70 home-run season in 1998 attracted attention that the egotistical outfielder thought rightfully should be his, as the better all-around player. If McGwire could get away with it, so could he.

According to Bell, as Bonds’ batting average and home run totals soared, his already difficult personality deteriorated. He started losing his hair and began shaving his head.

“Bonds also suffered sexual dysfunction,” we’re told, “another common side effect of steroid use. Bonds became more quick-tempered. When his anger at Bell flared now, he would grab her, stand close to her and whisper intimidating, hurtful things....  [H ] e told her he would kill her if he found she was seeing someone else.”

Yeah, well, maybe so. Then again, maybe not. Bell even takes a cheap shot at Bonds’ wife, saying he only married a black woman for political reasons. A real sweetheart, isn’t she?

Which isn’t to say that Bonds’ denials of steroid use are even remotely credible. Although he’s never tested positive for banned substances, his defense lawyer once conceded that it was “possible Bonds took steroids unwittingly, mixed into a supplement or nutritional shake without his knowledge.” Bonds ’ reported grand jury testimony was downright laughable. Exhausted in the wake of his father’s death, the authors said, he claimed he’d simply taken whatever his personal trainer gave him: “Greg [Anderson ] came to the ballpark and said, you know, ‘This will help you recover.’  And he rubbed some cream on my arm... gave me
some flax seed oil, man. It’s like, ‘Whatever, dude.’” But you know what? Never mind that another word for steroids is hormones, and that athletes increasingly risk expulsion for substances with legitimate medical uses. Absent prosecution, there’s nothing baseball commissioner Bud Selig can do. Baseball didn’t ban steroids until 2002, Bonds has never tested positive and Selig can’t probe one guy without probing scores of others, many since retired. Like it or not, baseball and baseball fans are simply going to have to live with what actually happened on the field.

•–––––—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and recipient of the National Magazine Award.

Lily Tomlin said it best. "No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up."


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