With Bonds at the wheel, game takes a ride down a dirty road

The Bonds Indictment

November 16, 2007|By DAVID STEELE

So, now another liar has been caught, lying for a long time and in a big way about what he or she did and didn't do with performance-enhancing drugs. But this time, not just any liar. The biggest liar in an ever more crowded pool of liars.

Yeah, we know. Barry Bonds never fooled a lot of you. Realistically, he didn't even fool those of us who kept defending him. That is, his right to face actual accusers in a court of law, or to be considered innocent until proven guilty, or to simply be given the benefit of the doubt as long as there was no obvious proof. Not reports, not speculation, not testimony from people who insist they know, but real proof.

Now the feds have him. There's no trial yet, and no pleas have been entered. But c'mon. Enough is enough.

There's courtroom truth, and then there's your own eyes and ears. What is more likely, that everybody is lying about Bonds or that Bonds is the one doing the lying to everybody?

Bonds took everybody for a ride, and the ride carried his legacy and the sport he played right down into the toilet.

Yesterday, he sailed right past the banishment of the dirty players in the 1919 World Series and the banning of Pete Rose for betting on games and made it the worst day in baseball history. The holder of the most hallowed record in American sports, next to the word "indicted." It's baseball's answer to the 1992 Mike Tyson trial - except boxing never pretended to be a model for others to emulate.

Granted, baseball might have it worse in the future, whenever the Mitchell report comes out. That will be about quantity, not quality. No name unveiled there will be as big as the one spelled out in court papers yesterday, over and over again, in capital letters.

United States vs. BARRY LAMAR BONDS. No great career has ended in more shame. The only saving grace is that he didn't have an embarrassing alias, like "Ookie."

The indictment's most enraging revelation? The flunked drug test in November 2000. Bye-bye to the ever-present crutch that he had never tested positive for anything. I leaned on it plenty. I'm flat on my face now, me and a lot of others who leaned on it. We're all suckers, once again. At least the likes of Marion Jones have gotten us accustomed to the feeling.

In hindsight, it all seems so pointless. Bonds had a chance to do the right thing and to let someone else suck baseball down the drain. If the 2006 book Game of Shadows is correct (and it seems more dead-on every day), Bonds was jealous of Mark McGwire and the love he got back in 1998, and hungered to overtake that and grab some love for himself.

He could have let McGwire and his needle-ball pals cook in their own stew. And if they didn't, then just let them have to look at themselves in the mirror.

Bonds couldn't do that. Now, he has to look in the mirror. And ponder never looking at his Hall of Fame plaque.

Of course, in a perverse way, we probably should be thanking Bonds for doing us this favor. If any other player's personal trainer had been tied up in this, if another player's initials had been all over documents seized in that 2003 raid, if another player had puffed up like a parade float and started breaking otherwise unbreakable records, he wouldn't have been hounded the way this human lightning rod was.

Everything would have stayed in, yes, the shadows. It already happens, the pass given by the public to the McGwires, Clemenses, Ankiels and the others named in the various investigations. The Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative itself would have been a minor track scandal, digest-section material in the daily paper.

The brazenness of Bonds' persona, the divisiveness and polarization he inspired, actually forced baseball kicking and screaming toward an attempt, halting as it is, to acknowledge the problem and clean itself up. And it got everybody to look over baseball's shoulder: fans, media, local police, the Justice Department, Congress and the parents of kids whose lives were wrecked by steroids.

Nevertheless, Bonds isn't getting any thanks from here. His motive for yanking around the American public for the four years of this investigation was not to shed light in baseball's dirty crevices. He had the opportunity to do it, because he was suspicious of his swollen-up colleagues.

Instead, he took the path of selfishness, arrogance and manipulation.

And lying.


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