By Jason Keidel
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It’s a bad time for bad boys.
Perhaps the pack leader of these dirty dogs, Barry Bonds, is on trial for perjury. The courtroom is the only place where he hasn’t been convicted. Bonds has the bank to buy the best legal minds in California, and he has. They will flood the courtroom with legalese, motions, and subterfuge. And none of it matters.
Bonds told a federal grand jury in 2003 that he never knowingly took steroids. An entire book, “Game of Shadows” chronicled exactly when, where, and how he took them and not one lawsuit sprung from his legal team. That’s all you need to know.
For the trial, at least, Bonds’s ace in the hole is his former trainer, Greg Anderson, who’s either the dumbest fool or dearest friend in America. Anderson has done countless bids in the brink for contempt of court because he won’t testify against Bonds. Anderson procured, delivered, and injected Bonds with equine potions that would make Secretariat blush.
Bonds bothers the bulk of baseball fans because he’s the titular king of the home run, stealing the crown from a bigger, better man, Henry Aaron. But Bonds is refreshing in one regard – his disregard for public opinion. He’s a creep, he knows it, and he knows we know it, and we know he knows that we know it.
But despite the nearly unanimous animus toward Bonds, putting him in prison is cosmetic. It doesn’t erase the damage he’s done. The time to act, for Bud Selig and his minions who cashed too many checks on the pimpled backs of these behemoths, has long past time to help our pastime. The five or so people who still like Bonds say this is a witch hunt. Maybe it is. Who cares? Let him go home. What kind of life does he have to look forward to, anyway?
The best part is that he’s gone from the game. And that his former team, the San Francisco Giants, won the World Series once he left. The Giants, anemic with him in the lineup, were anorexic without him. Guided by pitching, timely hitting, fate, and the sweetest dose of irony, they won their first title since abandoning the Polo Grounds in 1957.
Bonds and his bulging brother, Mark McGwire, have that kind of karma following them, an irrevocable sin tax that is lonelier than any jail cell.
McGwire the liar, the coward, he of the dimpled face and pimpled back whose lone talent – hitting a small ball a long way – was chemically fueled and funneled through a syringe into his titanic ass.
Watching McGwire engage in that group hug with the Maris family, knowing that his Herculean, pockmarked posterior had more track marks than Penn Station, has become as much a part of the game’s history as watching Aaron circle the dirt after No. 715, fending off fans as they clawed at him. McGwire’s legacy is mendacity, while Missourians solemnly remove the road signs bearing his name.
Baseball, more than any American sport, trades on nostalgia. I can still smell the sticks of stiff, crusty gum, pink and powdery as the plastic peeled off my pack of baseball cards. I drooled as I thumbed through the deck, praying for a Mike Schmidt, Dave Parker, or George Brett card with the red bar, All-Star streaked across the top. Millions of you were doing the same, racing to the local store, clutching your allowance money, slapping it on the glass counter, and darting back home. Each image in the pack was like a postcard from a distant hero.
Beyond our betrayal, the real losers in the chemical warfare are Roger Maris and Aaron, who did their deeds the right way, belting homers in chasmal parks before a freckling of fans, heads down as they trotted around the bridal path of history.
Bonds didn’t need the juice. And perhaps that’s the hardest part to digest. He fell prey to vanity, unable to accept the feats of cheats. Rather than rejoice in his own talent, his five-tool brilliance that assured him a bronze bust without a syringe, he took the easy way, for the easy pay.
Baseball’s historical edge was its prerogative as a cultural compass. Babe Ruth made the game sexy and Jackie Robinson made it essential. It was a place we visited to forget our troubles, not to have them reinforced.
Perhaps it never was as pure as we wanted to be. It was a game given to mythmaking, from Grantland Rice to Red Smith to Red Barber. Even if it wasn’t pristine, we could live on its promise, snapshots and anecdotes passed like batons down the generations.
Barry Bonds is not the only cheater, just the lead cheat. He’s the face of a fatherless epoch in baseball, a void in the game’s history, leaving a generation of kids without baseball heroes. We don’t want his baseball card.
Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com
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