foo to yoo

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Steven A. Smith is wrong about Barry Bonds

Wrong. I read his column today with my jaw dropping increasingly open, having the same feeling one has watching a horror movie as the virgin female character blissfully prepares to fall asleep (from which she will be awakened by the killer).

Barry Bonds is the topic:

None of us gets to sit here and chronicle Bonds' transgression as if he's committed some crime against humanity, as if he's someone who should be ostracized for all of sports eternity. We especially don't get to do that when, reportedly, all Bonds was trying to do was level a playing field McGwire allegedly desecrated with his own unethical practices.

Uh oh. It gets worse though: the time that McGwire was a media darling, Bonds, alluding to McGwire's pursuit of Maris' home-run record, said, "They're just letting him do it because he's a white boy!"

Bell also reportedly claimed that Bonds said, "They'll never let him win," speaking of Sammy Sosa, a Latin player battling with McGwire for Maris' record.


But what, pray tell, was Bonds actually wrong about?

The fact remains that while no one can prove what is inside someone's soul, a large segment of the black population feels exactly the way Bonds feels:

It believes that McGwire was cheating the whole time. That it was evident he was on something more than andro, likely even Deca-Durabolin and Winstrol - steroids Bonds has been accused of using.

It believes that many in the baseball community knew this much, and still covered their eyes and ears because they didn't want to taint baseball's once-pristine image, already sullied because of innumerable boneheaded decisions (such as the cancellation of the World Series in 1994) that the sport had yet to recover from in 1998.

Many black folks believe what Bonds believes: that if he wasn't on the brink of eclipsing the great Babe Ruth's No. 2 spot among all-time home-run leaders, there may not have been a Balco investigation, constant leaking of grand jury testimony, or something tantamount to a witch hunt against a guy who continues to play baseball with impunity everywhere but in the court of public opinion.

I'm black, and I'm no different.

Look, I'm typically very sympathetic to those asserting that blacks are treated differently and seen differently by society at large and portrayed in the media, but this is not going to go far with me.

First of all, I find this crying out that Bonds is being singled out because he is closing in on Babe Ruth offensive. Mr. Smith might want to refresh his memory of Hank Aaron's experience as he closed in on the same record that Mr. Bonds is nearing. In that case, Aaron was receiving death threats (not having his illegal steroid use exposed) solely becasue of the color of his skin (not because he had chosen to do something illegal by taking performance enhancing drugs). Hank Aaron played in the negro leagues (Mr. Bonds was never in a segregated league). Hank Aaron made a top salary of $250,000 in 1976. Mr. Bonds made $22,000,000 in 2005 and is in the last year of a five year, $90,000,000 contract with the San Francisco Giants (meaning that he will earn $22,000,000 this year as well).

Second, take a look at Mr. Sosa, who is portrayed as a victim of some massive baseball conspiracy to keep him from setting the single season home run record in 1998. We have direct knowledge that he is a cheater. The phenomenon of "mini Sammy Sosa" in Baltimore once steroid testing began in major league baseball is one of those things that makes you say "Hmmm, maybe there IS something to the rumors that Sosa was on the juice." Steroid testing leads to markedly smaller Sammy Sosa and a big drop off in production-- correlation is not causality, but there may be something here. Also, how exactly did MLB orchestrate this incredible conspiracy to keep McGuire in front of Sosa? It sure would take a lot of people in on the effort, with all the pitchers and managers involved. I like (and am even willing to believe) a good conpiracy theory any day. This is not a good one. Smith says that baseball is run by boneheads (true), but then wants us to believe that these same boneheads who couldn't keep their sport from imploding over labor issues pulled off a widespread conspiracy to keep McGuire on top and then successfully kept it quiet all these years-- I don't think so.

Third, Mr. Smith tries to link the BALCO investigation solely to Barry Bonds. Mr. Bonds got himself in to trouble with BALCO. He publicly endorsed one of the company's (legal) supplement products as early as 2000. He remained a customer and defended the company in statments and insisted on his innocence of any involvement in steroid use. However, the driving force in performance drug testing is not Major League Baseball (not by any stretch), but athletic events associated with the Olympics, especially track and field and swimming. BALCO clients started to test positive on a broad basis beginning in 2000 with C.J. Hunter (who BALCO's founders defended with a story about contaminated supplements bought from BALCO), and many more BALCO clients were found to be users of the company's designer steroids in 2003-4. The leaks from the grand jury investigation are a crime, and should be investigated and prosecuted where they exist-- however, much of the information on Mr. Bonds comes from individuals (including his mistress, Kimberly Bell) who were witnesses to the Grand Jury, but who are not constrained from talking about their testimony in any venue. (Smith is snide about Bell, at one point ridiculing her as someone "who somehow is capable of corroborating his mood swings to his use of everything from insulin to human growth hormone to testosterone decanoate" implying that she is reaching beyond her non-medical knowledge, but wouldn't she have known enough about his steroid use activity to correlate that with observed mood swings by Mr. Bonds?)

There is something that strikes me as false when Steven A. Smith, a celebrated sports media personality who makes hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, attempts to explain that "the Man" is Barry Bonds' problem. American sports fans have come a long way from 1974 (thank goodness), and sports fans of all races celebrate and worship the feats of Michael Jordan, Michael Vick, and (yes) Barry Bonds. Sports fans also understand that McGuire probably was using something with a little more juice than the non-banned "andro" that he acknowledged taking in 1998 (just look at his Congressional testimony to see the weaseling he does), and know that this devalues his accomplishments, just as they devalue Mr. Bonds'. Mr. Bonds is a premium talent who belongs in the Hall of Fame (provided he is not banned for something that we do not yet know-- an unlikely occurrance in my mind), just as Mr. McGuire does. I'm a believer that, disgraceful as his Congressional testimony becomes after he tested positive for steroids in 2005, Rafael Palmeiro belongs there as well.

Barry Bonds' problem is Barry Bonds, the man who probably took steroids, the man who had a mistress, the man who believes that "the Man" is his problem and who believes the syncophantic sports media players who help him to believe he is right.

Update: I think this is interesting too.


At 1:48 AM, Anonymous militantgg said...

Dam you are even complaining about Bonds having a misstress? Maybe you don't like the fact that she was a white mistrress.

you white people are something else...what does having a misstress have to do with Bonds passing Babe Ruth.

Who was a womanizing drunk.

At 10:48 PM, Blogger ackfoo said...

I'm NOT complaining about Bonds having a mistress, I'm complaining about Bond's defenders using intellectually dishonest arguments to defend him. Evidence seems to indicate that Mr. Bonds is a cheater.

Hank Aaron was not.


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