Two Quotes Re. Steroids

Here are two quotes in an excerpt from the Washington Post's piece on the BALCO indictments, which include Barry Bonds' childhood friend and personal trainer Greg Anderson:

"Common sense tells you that if they've got Bonds' personal trainer," one baseball source said yesterday, "they're only one step away from having Bonds."

Bonds has consistently denied using steroids, and there is no indication he will be charged.

"I am saddened by the news of the indictment against my trainer and friend," Bonds said in a statement. "I don't know the state of the evidence and it would be inappropriate to comment on this matter."

I'm biased. I love Barry Bonds for what he does for the Giants and for allowing me to watch one of the greatest baseball players of all time. It's as if I've been sitting in the Fenway bleachers watching Ted Williams day after day. Or Stan Musial. Or Willie Mays. I know he's that great, and so does everyone else around me, which only adds to the sense of community and wonder. Like when I'm actually there on his 39th birthday and he throws out a Diamondback at the plate in the top of the 9th to preserve a tie, then first pitch, boop, home run off the lefty specialist Mike Myers. Get me rewrite? Hell, no, it's perfect.

Will my memories of that day, and so many other days, be diminished if Bonds, as the above anonymous "baseball source" says, is only one step away from getting busted for doping his body?

That's a tough question. I'm not even sure how to answer. I guess my estimation of him as a ballplayer will go down a big notch. He'll be proven a liar and a cheat. The 73 home runs will have an asterisk. (Just as Mark McGwire's 70 should have had, since he all but admitted he used andro.) Even with drugs, Bonds will still be one of the greatest of this era, but trying to defend him will be, at best, splitting hairs; at worst, an abdication of moral decency.

I've written this before on this blog, but I'll repeat it. Much of America and the press would love to see Bonds go down. He's arrogant, he's weird, he's private, he's childish, and he's black. He doesn't play the game. He doesn't let people love him, project themselves onto him. He doesn't give good quote. He's not good for business -- not like A-Rod and Air Jordan and Giambi.

I'm not saying sportswriters are racist (although I am saying that a lot of sports fans are racist); I'm saying that as mostly white guys, sportswriters don't understand him. If they were black, they might not, either. But at least they'd be on the same side of the cultural divide. (Ralph Wiley of ESPN last fall wrote a long piece on the complexities of race, culture, Bonds and other baseball superstars that's well worth reading in this context.)

So, about this latest Wash Post piece and the above quote from the "baseball source"... what follows won't sound objective, but trust me, I'm trying:

If I were the journalist, I'd be embarrassed to include such a trashy quote. "A baseball source" could be the guy who sweeps up garlic fries in the Pac Bell bleachers after night games, for Christ sake (although it's probably not). And is it really "common sense"? Not really. It's circumstantial evidence, at best. When a guy comes home with blood on his jacket 10 minutes after a jogger was found stabbed in the park, common sense tells you it's an angle that needs to be investigated, but it's not a presumption of guilt, which is basically what the anonymous source above is implying.

I won't be surprised if it turns out Bonds has been juicing. (Or Sosa, or Giambi, or Clemens, or anyone. I have no illusions.) But I also know that what seems obvious to practically everyone -- Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction; George HW Bush is a shoe-in for reelection; the Soviets will crush the U.S. hockey team at Lake Placid -- can turn out to be the opposite of what we thought. That's why this country is built on the principle of innocent until proven guilty.

Bonds's quote is worth parsing, too. In his statement (which could well have been crafted by a flack or a lawyer), he makes no attempt to backpedal away from his relationship with Anderson, whom he calls "my trainer and friend." This could be a case of reverse spin -- ie, a lawyer saying, "Barry, if you backpedal now, everyone will smell a rat."

But think how often people pushed into corners try to spin their way out by backpedaling and obfuscation. (One year it's "weapons of mass destruction," the next it's "weapons of mass destruction-type-kinda-sorta-programs in theory." I guess it depends on how you define "is.") But Bonds' statement was simple. Instead of saying "I have no comment about my former associate," or "I will not comment on the investigation," Bonds re-asserted the connection: my trainer, my friend.

Whatever Bonds's conscience, or his past drug intake, you have to admit it's admirable. These days, common sense would tell you to run, hide and leave your ex-trainer and ex-friend to dangle in the wind.


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