Barry Bonds and the Inevitable

by Jeff Siegel

The news that a federal grand jury finally indicted Barry Bonds, baseball's home run record holder, was much more than anti-climatic. Is post-anticlimatic possible? Or double-plus-anticlimatic (to borrow from George Orwell)?

Bonds still has supporters, of course – mostly in San Francisco, where he was playing when he broke Hank Aaron's record and where fans took a perverse joy in cheering Bonds when the rest of baseball treated him like scum sucking slime. But it's doubtful that anyone, even in San Francisco, believed that Bonds hasn't regularly taken steroids for years, lying to the grand jury in the process. The question is not that he was indicted, but that it took so long. This grand jury has been sitting for most of the decade. Yet suddenly, just after the World Series and the end of the season in which he hit his 756th home run, Bonds gets indicted?

Oddly, few have embraced this conspiracy theory. For one thing, a key witness against Bonds, his personal trainer, refused to rat Bonds out and spent almost a year in prison for contempt. Coincidentally, the trainer was released just before the indictment was handed down, which leads one to believe that he finally talked. In addition, the Bush Administration's guerrilla war against unfriendly federal prosecutors apparently played a role. The original prosecutor, Kevin Ryan, was purged earlier this year, further delaying the case. Finally, there was always the sense that Ryan and his successors wanted to do more than bag Bonds – they wanted everyone who did business with his steroid suppliers, like Olympic track star Marion Jones.

What will baseball do? What it always does – pretend that the entire mess never happened. I don't know that baseball can disallow Bonds' record, and commissioner Bud Selig has never been able to act unilaterally in this case, given the sport's collective bargaining agreement, the power of the players' union, and the greed of the owners who pay his salary and who loved Bonds' home runs. But one would think Selig could do more than wring his hands, avoid questions about whether he would watch Bonds break Aaron's record, and issue statements like: "I take this indictment very seriously and will follow its progress closely."

(Graphic from StrangeSports.com, a website that offers copyright-free satirical material.)

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Anonymous said...

Baseball just surpassed a record $6,000,000,000 in revenue for the past season. Selig was giddy about it in the press.

I would say the strategy of ignoring and pretending a problem doesn't exist and sandbagging are working beautifully.

Hardly an apt treatment ethically for our National Past time but lest we not forgot, baseball is not so much our national treasure as it is a cash cow for 32 rich old men.

Jeff Siegel said...

That's the short term thinking that drives U.S. business these days. They're making a pile of cash now, can't remember the bad times, and will be completely surprised when the bad times return.

Rick Rockwell said...

Selig may be laughing all the way to the bank now. But he gets the blame for presiding over a period where baseball slipped from being America's pastime into a lesser sport. Baseball may call itself America's pastime but that isn't the case any longer. There have been times in the past 15 years when basketball seemed more important and of course football is the nation's obsession now.

This is a sad evolution. Many of us have written off baseball because of the obvious corruption it fosters. The current climate might as well be 1919 all over again. The owners of that era would probably agree with the business decision to look the other way on steroids.

This is what baseball gets for going with a weak commissioner system: Selig is really an owner who has his holdings in trust, and he led the overthrow of the last commissioner of any worth. Where is Faye Vincent when baseball really needs him?

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